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Hepatitis screening and monitoring examinations explained

Hepatitis screening and monitoring examinations explained

As part of the screening and monitoring process for hepatitis, various examinations may be recommended.

What is a screening test?

The test screens for the specific markers of various hepatitis viruses (anti-HCV antibody for hepatitis C and HBs antigen for hepatitis B). By identifying these markers, the nature of your hepatitis can be determined. All it requires is a simple blood test, which can be performed in any medical laboratory.

If my test is positive, am I ill?

A positive test simply means that you are, or have been, in contact with the hepatitis virus.
The test gives no indication as to whether a current infection is present. The test result simply tells your doctor whether or not there is cause to proceed with other examinations.

What is a hepatitis viral load?

If your screening test is positive, it will be necessary to find out whether the virus is still present in your body. Measuring the viral load in your blood will determine whether or not the virus is present and how quickly it is replicating itself. The viral load is not linked to the seriousness of the disease. It is also useful to perform this test while you are following treatment, because the progression of the viral load predicts the treatment response.
The viral load indicates the quantity of virus present in your blood. In the case of hepatitis C, it is not linked to the seriousness of the disease. This information is useful when treatment is being planned, as its progression after 1 and 3 months will allow your response to the treatment to be assessed.

I have hepatitis C — why is it useful to find out the viral genotype?

This test allows doctors to calculate your chances of recovery and the duration of treatment, depending on whether you have genotype 1, 2, 3 or 4.

What is the liver biopsy used for?

This test confirms how active your disease is and the extent of your liver's fibrosis, i.e. the severity of the liver damage.

Are there any alternatives to liver biopsy?

In the minority of cases, tests conducted on a simple blood sample or an assessment of the fibrosis using an elastometry device known as a Fibroscan® can provide information similar to that obtained through a biopsy. Your doctor will choose the most appropriate solution.

What is the Fibroscan® used for?

It is a technique that uses an elastometry device to measure the hardness of the liver, which is translated into degrees of fibrosis. It is a painless examination similar to a liver ultrasound. Note: this test is only available in selected specialist centres.

What is a hepatic profile?

It is a series of biological tests carried out through a simple blood test, allowing doctors to assess the impact the hepatitis has had on the body.

How often do follow-up examinations need to be carried out?

These examinations can be carried out every 3, 6 or 12 months. Your doctor will decide how often to do them and which ones to include. You must follow their recommendations exactly, as they will contribute to the quality of your treatment.

While your hepatitis is being monitored, several blood tests are prescribed and various examinations are carried out so that doctors can assess the condition of your liver and the response to treatment. Your doctor will choose the most suitable examinations for your circumstances, as well as how often they are to be performed.

Publication date:   10/14/17
Date of modification:  11/29/11

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TLC-DOC is a service provided by local GPs, with the support of the HSE, and located in Tallaght Cross west across from Aldi Tallaght Rd, Cookstown, Dublin. Local GPs have formed a cooperative to provide out-of-hours care for their own patients. This service will provide GP appointments for urgent medical conditions on weekday evenings and weekends. 1890 20 22 24 Please do not ring this number before 6.00 pm Monday - Friday, or 10.00 Sat/Sun & Bank Holidays.

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