Treatment of Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C (known as HCV, once called non-A, non-B hepatitis) is a liver disease caused by a blood-borne virus. Discovered in 1989, this strain of acute viral hepatitis causes approximately 20,000 new infections in the U.S. each year.

Hepatitis C is diagnosed through blood tests, which can also show if you have chronic hepatitis C or another type of hepatitis. Your doctor may suggest getting a liver biopsy if chronic hepatitis C is suspected. A liver biopsy is a test for liver damage. The doctor uses a needle to remove a tiny piece of liver, which is then looked at with a microscope.

Specific treatment for hepatitis C will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

Chronic hepatitis C is most often treated with the drug combination peginterferon and ribavirin, which attacks the hepatitis C virus. Peginterferon is taken through weekly shots and ribavirin is taken daily by mouth. Treatment lasts from 24 to 48 weeks.

A liver transplant may be necessary if chronic hepatitis C causes liver failure. Liver transplantation surgery replaces a failed liver with a healthy one from a donor. Drug treatment often must continue because hepatitis C usually comes back after surgery. At the present time, a vaccine is not available for the prevention of hepatitis C. Treatment may include biological therapy with interferon.