1Hepatology and Liver Transplantation, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA.
There are differences in the predisposition, natural history of liver disease, complications and treatment response between men and women.
To review clinical differences in cirrhosis between men and women and to address unique management issues of fertility, pregnancy and contraception in this patient population.
PubMed and MEDLINE were searched using the terms 'cirrhosis' and 'chronic liver disease', each cross-referenced with specific liver diseases, as well as terms such as 'cancer', 'hepatocellular carcinoma', 'smoking', 'liver transplantation', 'metabolic bone disease', 'fertility',' pregnancy' and 'contraception'.
Pre-menopausal status is protective in viral hepatitis C and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. However, smoking, especially in combination with alcohol, is a stronger risk factor for cirrhosis and malignancies in women with chronic liver disease compared to men, although they are less likely than men to develop hepatocellular carcinoma. Women with cirrhosis have more osteopenic bone disease than men and require active management. Successful pregnancy is possible in well-compensated cirrhosis or with mild portal hypertension, although the maternal and foetal mortality and morbidity are higher than in the general population. The maternal risk correlates with liver disease severity and derives mostly from variceal bleeding. The choices for contraception in compensated cirrhosis are generally the same as for the general population. Women with cirrhosis are disadvantaged by the current MELD system of organ allocation, at least in part due to body size.
The management of women with chronic liver disease is unique in regards to counselling, screening for complications, fertility and pregnancy.