Gaps in hepatocellular carcinoma surveillance in a United States cohort of insured patients with cirrhosis

Mindie H. Nguyen, Lewis R. Roberts, Nicole M. Engel-Nitz, Tim Bancroft, A. Burak Ozbay, Amit G. Singal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is known to be underutilized; however, neither the variation of surveillance adherence by cirrhosis etiology nor the patient-side economic burden of surveillance are well understood. To identify potential barriers to HCC surveillance, we assessed utilization patterns and costs among US patients with cirrhosis monitored in routine clinical practice. Methods: We conducted a retrospective study of insured adult patients with cirrhosis using national administrative claims data from January 2013 through June 2019. Time up-to-date with recommended surveillance, correlates of surveillance receipt, and surveillance-associated costs were assessed during a ≥ 6-month follow-up. Results: Among 15,543 patients with cirrhosis (mean [SD] age 64.0 [11.1] years, 50.7% male), 45.8% and 58.7% had received any abdominal imaging at 6 and 12 months, respectively. Patients were up-to-date with recommended surveillance for only 31% of a median 1.3-year follow-up. Those with viral hepatitis were more likely to receive surveillance than those with other etiologies (hazard ratio [HR] 1.55, 95% CI 1.11–2.17, p =.010 for patients without a baseline gastroenterologist [GI] visit and 2.69, 95% CI 1.77–4.09, p <.001 for patients with a GI visit, relative to those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and no GI visit). For all etiologies except NAFLD, the HR (95% CI) for surveillance receipt was higher among patients with vs without a baseline GI visit (alcohol-related, 1.164 [1.002–1.351] vs 0.880 [0.796–0.972]; viral hepatitis, 2.688 [1.765–4.093] vs 1.553 [1.111–2.171]; Other, 0.612 [0.519–0.722] vs 0.549 [0.470–0.641]). Mean total and patient-paid daily surveillance-related costs ranged from $540 and $113, respectively (ultrasound) to $1580 and $300, respectively (magnetic resonance imaging), and mean estimated patient productivity costs were $730–$2514 annually. Conclusion: HCC surveillance was underutilized and was lowest among patients with nonviral etiologies and those who had not seen a gastroenterologist. Surveillance-related out-of-pocket expenses and lost productivity were substantial. The development of surveillance strategies that reduce patient burden, such as those using blood-based biomarkers, may help improve surveillance adherence and effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2163-2173
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Medical Research and Opinion
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2022


  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • cost of illness
  • health expenditures
  • healthcare costs
  • liver cirrhosis
  • retrospective studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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