Medical tests & screening
Hepatitis C can be detected with blood tests. Three different tests are needed for making the diagnosis:
- Antibody test
This test is performed to see whether you are infected with the virus. When your body fights against a virus to eliminate it, your immune system produces antibodies. Doctors can tell whether you have ever had hepatitis C by looking for specific antibodies against the virus in your blood. In 15-25% of cases, the virus disappears within the first six months after infection. This is why the antibody test is followed by a PCR test to see whether you have persistent hepatitis C.
- PCR test
This test is performed to see whether the virus is still in your body. This blood test is carried out to detect the presence of hepatitis C in the body. It is also used to determine the quantity of the virus in your body.
- Genotype test
This test is performed to find out which strain of the virus you have. The different strains of hepatitis C are referred to as genotypes 1 to 7. Genotype 1 is the most prevalent in the Netherlands. This blood test is performed to determine which strain of the virus is present in your body.
If the virus is in your blood, the doctor will examine you for liver damage and to see whether your liver is still functioning properly. The doctor will decide which particular tests are required. This can involve:
- Blood tests
These tests measure the ALAT and ASAT liver values to indicate whether liver cells are damaged. If the liver values are not in order, your liver might be damaged.
- Fibro Scan
A Fibro Scan is the most commonly used method for determining the seriousness of liver damage. This scan measures the elasticity of the liver with sound waves. The elasticity value is expressed in kilopascals ( kPa) and is a measurement for the extent of fibrosis. A high elasticity value can indicate liver disease.
A doctor can perform an echo using sound waves to diagnose the state of health of the liver.
- Liver biopsy
In a liver biopsy, a piece of liver tissue is removed for microscopic study.