The West

Binge drinkers face liver transplants
Risky business: Drinkers are damaging their livers. Picture: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian

WA's top liver doctors are warning of a looming disaster from the State's binge-drinking culture, as more people face the prospect of premature liver damage and the need for a transplant.

They say the short-term damage from drunken behaviour such as injuries and assaults is well-publicised but the longer term health impact is being largely ignored.

Professor Luc Delriviere, surgical director of the Liver Foundation WA and the State's liver transplantation service, said he was concerned about findings from a study that showed Perth had some of the nation's highest alcohol consumption.

"The short-term effects of high levels of alcohol consumption are widely known, however the long-term impact of binge drinking, especially among young people, is known to a lesser extent," he said.

"Excessive drinking can cause alcohol liver disease which can lead to fatty liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis."

He said more needed to be done to reduce alcohol abuse in young people and alert them to the dangers of heavy drinking, through schools and the wider community.

Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital liver specialist Gary Jeffrey, who chairs the Liver Foundation and is medical director of the transplantation service, said people did not realise what harm they were doing to their livers until they had severe damage. Alcohol's effect was compounded if the person had another condition such as fatty liver disease caused obesity that was also putting strain on the liver.

"We're seeing fatty liver disease in youngsters now so if you throw in something like them starting to drink large amounts from a young age you have to wonder what sorts of rates of liver disease we're going to be seeing," he said.

Doctors were concerned about seeing more patients aged in their 30s needing treatment for lifestyle-related liver scarring, or cirrhosis, while alcohol-related liver inflammation was being diagnosed in people in their 20s.

The West Australian

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