In order to assess the frequency and profile of cirrhosis in the young, 169 consecutive patients with cirrhosis were studied. Sixty three (37%) patients of less than or equal to 35 years age were defined as young and the remaining 106 (63%) patients (greater than 35 years) as adult cirrhotics. Men predominated significantly (p less than 0.01) in the young cirrhotic group. The aetiology, the frequency of positive hepatitis B markers and initial clinical presentation were similar in the two groups. During the follow up period (30.6 +/- 29.7 months for the young and 25.8 +/- 21.7 months for the adult group), except for abdominal distension and pedal oedema which occurred significantly more often in the adult compared with the young cirrhotics, no difference was noted in the two groups. Twenty seven (39.7%) deaths (40% as a result of hepatic failure and 52% due to variceal bleeding) occurred in the young and 47 (44.3%) deaths (63.8% because of hepatic failure and 26% because of variceal bleeding) occurred in the adult cirrhotics during the follow up (difference NS). The five year survival (61.9% v 55.7%) and the probability of survival within the same Child's grade of liver disease were comparable. In both the groups, however, the probability of survival was significantly higher in Child's A compared with Child's B and C and in Child's B compared with Child's C grade of liver disease. Survival was not influenced by sex of the patient and aetiology of cirrhosis. Results of this prospective study indicate that cirrhosis is not uncommon in young adults. The aetiology, clinical presentation, natural history of the disease and the survival rates in young cirrhotics do not differ significantly from adult cirrhotics.
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