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Dr. Donald Hillebrand, M.D.

Hepatitis C - Get diagnosed and get treated

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FibroScan Only Available at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

At least 30 million Americans – or about 1 out of 10 – have some form of liver disease, according to the American Liver Foundation. Now there's good news. Clinicians have a new painless and noninvasive examination as a breakthrough in managing patients with liver disease, including one of the most common – viral hepatitis.

FibroScan, the first in Iowa at the Center for Liver Disease at UnityPoint Health – Des Moines, uses a technology called vibration-controlled transient elastography. It works much like an ultrasound in that it uses sound waves to measure the degree of scarring (fibrosis) that's present in the liver. This scarring replaces normal liver tissue, and enough scarring can lead to cirrhosis, and ultimately cancer or liver failure.

Until now, the gold standard in terms of testing was to perform a needle biopsy of the liver. There are risks for complications with this procedure such as pain, significant bleeding and puncture of adjacent organs.

FibroScan is a fraction of the cost of a liver biopsy or specialized blood tests, producing a valid, accurate determination of liver fibrosis scarring. This noninvasive test, which is reimbursable through most insurance plans, is especially important as the number of Americans diagnosed with hepatitis C increases.

Hepatitis C, the most common form of chronic viral hepatitis, affects at least 4 million Americans, according to the American Liver Foundation. While immunizations will protect you from hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. 

If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you're at the highest risk of having hepatitis C, even if you don't think you have any risk factors for infection. The CDC reports that 75 percent of total American adult HCV infections are contained within the baby boomer generation. This generation has higher rates of infection than younger generations for two key reasons. First, the cause of HCV was not identified until 1989, and second, the blood supply was not regularly screened until 1992. Baby boomers may have been infected in their teens and 20's and still be unaware of their status today. You should talk to your primary care physician about being tested. The first step to being cured is getting tested.

The incidence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), another common liver disease, also continues to rise with obesity. NAFLD tends to occur in people who are overweight or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides.

A FibroScan examination typically takes 10 minutes or less, during which you:

  • Lie on your back with your right arm raised above your head
  • Have gel applied to your skin by a clinician
  • Have the FibroScan  probe placed on your right side over the liver
  • Get your degree of liver fibrosis measured
  • Click here to see our patient brochure

The test results are immediate and provided to your provider. The test can be repeated to monitor your management.

Call 515-241-4176 for additional information or to schedule your appointment FibroScan .