Low prevalence of chronic hepatitis C, but high prevalence of elevated aminotransferases in a cohort of 2026 patients referred for orthopaedic surgery in the eastern part of Germany.
INTRODUCTION: The prevalence of chronic hepatitis C in Germany is about 0.2 - 0.4 %. However, there seems to be regional differences between western and eastern states of the country. Thus, the present study analysed the prevalence of chronic hepatitis C in a cohort of orthopaedic patients in Thuringia. METHODS: Tests for antibodies against hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) were performed on serum samples of 2026 patients (1183 females, 843 males) admitted for orthopaedic surgery to a university hospital in Thuringia. If anti-HCV was positive, serum was tested for HCV-RNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). For the sake of anonymity only age and gender were reported in all patients. In 1465 cases, values of alanine (ALT) and aspartate (AST) aminotransferases were additionally available. The low HCV prevalence was confirmed in a second cohort of orthopaedic patients (n = 929, 599 females, 330 males) investigated at a university hospital in Saxonia. RESULTS: In the Thuringian cohort, anti-HCV was detectable in 12/2026 (0.6 %) individuals (10 females (0.85 %) and 2 males (0.24 %: p = 0.14 %). HCV-RNA was positive in 3/10 of anti-HCV positive females (0.15 % of the study cohort). HCV infection was already known in two cases. Anti-HCV positive patients seemed to be older than anti-HCV negative individuals (64.25 vs. 59.48 years; p = 0.17), as well as HCV-RNA positive cases compared to non-viraemic patients (66.3 vs. 63.6 years; p = 0.32). All HCV-RNA positive females had elevated ALT values. However, ALT and AST were also elevated in 18.2 % and 11.7 % of anti-HCV negative individuals. There was no significant difference between males and females (p = 0.32). In the Saxonian cohort none of 929 individuals were HCV positive. CONCLUSION: The prevalence of chronic hepatitis C is low in the investigated cohorts of orthopaedic patients in Thuringia and Saxonia. However, elevation of aminotransferases occurs surprisingly often. The reasons for elevated aminotransferases and a reliable analysis of the HCV prevalence in different subgroups of the Eastern German population require further evaluation.
Wiegand, J; Kaiser, T; Lobstein, S; Brand, F; Wojan, M; Stölzel, U; Liebert, UG; Mössner, J; Tillmann, HL
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