Before someone gets started on treatment, there are a few more things that will need to be done in order to determine the best regimen of medication to go on. First, you will need to know what strain of hepatitis C you have. There are currently seven known strains of Hepatitis C or what we refer to as genotypes. This is determined through a blood test as well. Most of the time, people are only infected by one genotype, but on rare occasions, it is possible for individuals to be affected by multiple genotypes. Aside from knowing which genotype you have, your doctor will also order a battery of blood test to evaluate the health of your liver and how much damage has been accumulated over time. There are many different ways to stage and label the health condition of your liver. And the most common way is what we refer to as the Metavir scoring system, in which the liver is stage from F zero to F four. F zero connotes a minimal damage, while F four connotes extensive damage and scarring. As a general rule of thumb, the more damaged your liver has, the longer you will need to be on medication for hepatitis C.
Aside from blood test, there are two other ways to assess the condition of your liver. One is a liver biopsy, which involves passing a needle through your abdomen, where the liver sets to get several samples of the liver tissue and look at them under the microscope to see how much damage is there. This used to be considered the gold standard way to assess for liver damage and scarring. However, due to recent advancement in technology, we can now also use an ultrasound based device also commercially known as fibroscan to do the same thing, which is now actually a much preferred way to assess for liver damage over the biopsy method, due to a less invasive nature of the test. It involves the technologist placing a probe onto the surface of your abdomen to measure the stiffness of your liver. The stiffer your liver, the more scarring there is. Fibroscan is usually only offered through big hospitals. So if this test is not available in your community, blood tests would be the test of choice to assess for the health of your liver.