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Validation of a hierarchical algorithm to define chronic liver disease and cirrhosis etiology in administrative healthcare data


Background and Aims — Chronic liver disease (CLD) and cirrhosis are leading causes of death globally with the burden of disease rising significantly over the past several decades. Defining the etiology of liver disease is important for understanding liver disease epidemiology, healthcare planning, and outcomes. The aim of this study was to validate a hierarchical algorithm for CLD and cirrhosis etiology in administrative healthcare data.

Methods — Consecutive patients with CLD or cirrhosis attending an outpatient hepatology clinic in Ontario, Canada from 05/01/2013-08/31/2013 underwent detailed chart abstraction. Gold standard liver disease etiology was determined by an attending hepatologist as hepatitis C (HCV), hepatitis B (HBV), alcohol-related, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)/cryptogenic, autoimmune or hemochromatosis. Individual data was linked to routinely collected administrative healthcare data at ICES. Diagnostic accuracy of a hierarchical algorithm incorporating both laboratory and administrative codes to define etiology was evaluated by calculating sensitivity, specificity, positive (PPV) and negative predictive values (NPV), and kappa's agreement.

Results — 442 individuals underwent chart abstraction (median age 53 years, 53% cirrhosis, 45% HCV, 26% NAFLD, 10% alcohol-related). In patients with cirrhosis, the algorithm had adequate sensitivity/PPV (>75%) and excellent specificity/NPV (>90%) for all etiologies. In those without cirrhosis, the algorithm was excellent for all etiologies except for hemochromatosis and autoimmune diseases.

Conclusions — A hierarchical algorithm incorporating laboratory and administrative coding can accurately define cirrhosis etiology in routinely collected healthcare data. These results should facilitate health services research in this growing patient population.



Philip G, Djerboua M, Carlone D, Flemming JA. PLoS One. 2020; 15(2):e0229218. Epub 2020 Feb 18.

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