Hepatitis C Lab Tests

It is quite probable that your medical practitioner will order regular blood tests because Hepatitis C is a liver disease. It takes time to understand lab tests at first, but you will be able to analyze it sooner than later.
Always keep a copy of the lab results. Do not try to interpret the results on your own; let the doctor do it for you. Ask him if you have any query. If the values are abnormal, ask the doctor if other factors such as medications and supplements could be a factor. It is not always necessary that abnormal results indicate a problem and a single abnormal result may be trivial too. Lab results do not rule your mood, do not be disheartened; stay positive.

A few common tests are given below:

  • LIVER PANEL: Variously called as Liver Function Test or Hepatic Panel, this is a series of tests to calculate the activities of the liver.
  • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT; sometimes listed as SGPT): ALT is a liver enzyme that shows an elevated count in case of the liver is affected with Hepatitis C. In the initial stages of infection, the ALT levels may be ten times higher than the normal values and with chronic patients, the level though lower remains consistently higher than normal. Continuous elevation of such values refers to a recurring damage to the liver cells.
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST; sometimes listed as SGOT): AST is another liver enzyme that also is elevated in chronic Hepatitis C patients, though lower than that of ALT levels. If there is cirrhosis, then the level of AST will be more than that of ALT indicating that liver damage is worser. Drug toxicity, high alcoholism are also reasons for high AST levels.


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  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP or Alk Phos) and gamma glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT or GGTP): These liver enzymes usually remain normal unless the infection is at the cirrhosis stage. But alcoholism and other factors use can elevate the value of this enzyme. It can be elevated also due to non-liver related causes.
  • Albumin: It is a protein made by the liver. It is a strong indicator of liver functioning unlike the generalized enzyme tests. For most people with Hepatitis C, it will be normal whereas a patient with cirrhosis causes the value may go down drastically.
  • Bilirubin: A substance found in bile and produced during the normal breakdown of RBCs. An elevated level may indicate cirrhosis though most people with Hepatitis C have normal levels.
  • Total protein: This measures all the proteins in the blood including albumin. If other proteins (globulins) are high and albumin is low, it may show normal levels of proteins. Therefore, the albumin value needs to be studied thoroughly.
  • COMPLETE BLOOD COUNT: CBC is usually ordered by the doctor to study the different components of your blood like Red Blood Cells (RBCs), White Blood Cells (WBCs) and platelets.
  • Red blood cells (RBCs): RBCs carry Oxygen to the cells in your body. Haemoglobin is a protein that carries the Oxygen to the cells. Low haemoglobin is usually the result of treating Hepatitis C with Ribavirin because it destroys the RBCs formed in the bone marrow leading to a condition called Hemolytic Anaemia. Lesser the RBCs in your blood the lesser will be the haemoglobin and hematocrit values. Though Hemolytic Anaemia sounds scary, this is quite common. If you are at any risk for cardiac problems, then your doctor may ask you to stop the Ribavirin treatment.
  • White blood cells (WBCs): White Blood Cells fight infection in your system. There are five different types of WBCs, all of which have a different function. HCV treatment that uses peginterferon may cause the WBC count to go down. Unless a patient is HIV positive, low WBCs do not indicate a compromised immune system.
  • Platelets (PLTs): It is the sticky component of the blood that helps the blood to clot. There are many causes for a low count one of which is Hepatitis C treatment using peginterferon. HCV being the only reason of a low count may be an indication that the liver damage is advanced. Life on a low count without severe consequences is quite possible, though you can check with the doctor if there is a risk of bleeding.


  • Prothrombin Time/International Normalized Ratio: This measures the time taken for your blood to clot. The liver makes clotting factors, so a longer time taken for the blood to clot may indicate liver damage. Take immediate medical help if the bleeding does not stop.
  • Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP): AFP is a protein that is produced by cancerous liver cells, so a high level may indicate the same but this is not so reliable nor is it final. Ultrasound is a better indicator for the same.
  • Viral load (HCV RNA): This is done first to confirm HCV though the actual number is neither a concern nor reassurance. The loads may vary with or without any relation to the progression of the disease. Viral loads monitor how well your medicines are working if you are being treated for HCV.
  • Drug-Resistance Tests: Even though the cure rate for HCV is high, people may still not be cured because of drug resistance. Unless, the patient has cirrhosis the doctor may not recommend regular tests for the same. It is also called polymorphisms.


With 2 simple blood tests you can get yourself diagnosed for Hep C. Routine blood test do not cover the below tests analysis. Your Hep C Specialist can run such tests along with additional test if diagnosed.

The Antibody Test

This test helps to detect if you were ever exposed to the Hep C virus.

The Viral Load Test

This is also known as the HCV-RNA test which tells if the virus is currently in your blood, and how much of it you have (your viral load). This test can confirm your diagnosis and is also used to monitor your progress as you undergo treatment.


Knowing the extent of fibrosis (scarring) in your liver can help your Specialist determine the best treatment for you. The result is called your fibrosis score, and there are different methods for measuring this:


Ultra Sound

Use of high frequency sound waves to diagnose certain medical state inside your body

Liver Biopsy

A liver biopsy is a procedure in which a small needle is inserted into the liver to collect a tissue sample of your liver to check scarring.

Scores from the above tests are scaled in between 0-4:



When its F0, it means your liver is healthy.

F1 / F2

(Mild – Moderate Fibrosis)

Early stages of liver damage with slight scarring


(Severe Fibrosis)

Blood flow in the liver has been affected



Enough scar tissues to restrict the liver from working.


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Call 928-328-8909 to get helpful information, a Hep C guide, and facts about managing Hep C.

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