What is the prognosis of hepatitis C?

Updated: May 10, 2019
  • Author: Nicholas John Bennett, MBBCh, PhD, MA(Cantab), FAAP; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Acute fulminant hepatitis C virus infection is rare, but more than 80% of acutely infected individuals develop chronic hepatitis. Most patients chronically infected with hepatitis C virus remain asymptomatic and do not have significant liver disease. The prognosis is guarded for those who have hepatitis C virus–related complications such as hepatocellular carcinoma and liver failure.

In more than 20% of adults with chronic infection, progression to cirrhosis occurs an average of 20 years after initial infection. Cirrhosis poses a secondary risk of portal hypertension, liver failure, and other complications. Hepatitis C is now the leading reason for liver transplantation in the United States. In 1-5% of patients, most of whom have underlying cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is diagnosed an average of 30 years after initial hepatitis C virus infection. Annually, hepatitis C virus infection accounts for 8,000-10,000 deaths in the United States.

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