Hepatitis C now ranks among the diseases that can nearly always be cured with appropriate treatment, which comes as a huge change compared to just a decade ago. However, after successfully treating hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection with direct-acting antiviral medications, there are still some things patients and their health care providers should keep in mind.
First of all, during HCV infection, the virus generally damages the liver. The liver does have the ability to regenerate, but it’s not a guarantee that this will happen perfectly. It’s important to assess liver function and the presence of liver scarring and, if warranted, track this over time. Even after successful HCV treatment, it is possible for a patient to develop liver cancer or complications related to compromised liver function.
The amount of follow-up needed by a patient who has cleared the hepatitis C virus will depend on their degree of liver damage. After being cured of the disease, it’s common for the liver to heal significantly (in regards to fibrosis and cirrhosis). However, this liver health recovery should be confirmed before a patient is considered to be ‘out of the woods.’
Additionally, it is always sound advice to practice liver-protective dietary and lifestyle choices, such as getting vaccinated against other liver-harmful infection (e.g., hepatitis A and B), avoiding alcohol, preventing development of type 2 diabetes, and taking steps to avoid re-infection with hepatitis C.
Lybeck C, Brenndorfer ED, Sallberg M, et al. Long-term follow-up after cure from chronic hepatitis C virus infection shows occult hepatitis and a risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in noncirrhotic patients. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019;31(4):506-13.