Researchers have confirmed what many people already knew: abstinence is the only way to survive severe alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver.
Alcohol-related cirrhosis develops silently but usually presents with an episode of internal bleeding or jaundice - which is often fatal.
The study, led by Dr Nick Sheron, senior lecturer at the University of Southampton and consultant hepatologist at Southampton General Hospital, found that abstinence from alcohol is the key factor in long-term prognosis, even with relatively severe alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver.
While analysing liver biopsies from 100 patients, the team found that drinking status was the most important factor determining long-term survival.
Abstinence from alcohol at one month after diagnosis of cirrhosis was the more important factor determining survival with a seven-year survival of 72 per cent for the abstinent patients against 44 per cent for the patients continuing to drink.
"These findings illustrate the critical significance of stopping alcohol intake, in alcohol-related cirrhosis but unfortunately the services needed to help these patients stay alcohol free simply do not exist in many parts of the UK," said Sheron.
"This study clearly confirms the common sense knowledge amongst hepatologists that the single most important determinant of long-term prognosis in alcohol-induced cirrhosis is for the patient to stop drinking.
"If we are to reduce liver mortality it would seem important to encourage and support patients to stop drinking, and to address the public health aspects of alcohol-related liver disease," he added.
The study appears in this month's Addiction journal.