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Tests And Investigations

Blood Tests

1. Antibody tests

  • The first tests that are done on a person being tested are antibody tests. These show if you have ever being exposed to HCV.
    The two common antibody tests in our unit our:
    • ELISA: Occasionally a reading may be false positive.
    • RIBA: the RIBA test looks at protein that are found on the virus. This is a more accurate test.
  • If these tests are negative you have not being exposed to HCV.
  • If they are positive you will need further testing to see if the virus is still present. Remember approximately 1 in 5 people clear the virus with their own antibodies. This means that their blood will show antibodies but not the live virus.

2. Viral tests

There are a number of viral tests:

  • PCR: If this is negative you have not got the "live virus". If the test if positive you have got HCV.
  • Quantitative test: This test counts the amount of virus
  • Genotype: Looks at the strain/type of HCV that you have.

3. Other blood tests

  • Liver function tests (LFT's): in 7 out of 10 people they may be raised. Doctors look at the trend of tests and not just the one of test.
  • Full blood count (FBC): This test looks at all the cells in the blood. Again these may be altered. It is the trend of several tests that is important and not a one off.
  • Coagulation study: This looks at how well your blood clots. The majority of your clotting factors are made in your liver.
  • Alpha-fetoprotein: Is a tumor marker. The blood test may be altered for other reasons beside tumor such as cirrhosis or pregnancy.

Liver Ultrasound

An ultrasound is a scan of the liver. It is a painless procedure. Cold gel is placed on the skin around the liver area to allow the probe, which is placed on your skin to pick up pictures of your liver area.

Liver Biopsy

Please see Liver Biopsy sheet for further information.

This is the most accurate way to assess liver inflammation. The liver is located by ultrasound. A local anaesthetic agent is given to numb the area. A sample of tissue is taken from the liver with a special instrument.

Should you have any pain following the biopsy, painkillers will be prescribed for you.

In SVUH we require you to stay overnight following the biopsy.

Not every patient requires a liver biopsy. This is decision is made by the doctor at your appointment.

Fibroscan

A Fibroscan is a specially adapted ultrasound machine, which measures the stiffness of the liver. The stiffness may indicate the degree of liver damage, which may be present.

SVUH hope to have a Fibroscan established early in 2007.