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Viral Hepatitis

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FAQ: Can the results of liver panel tests point to the presence of hepatitis C?

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can the results of liver panel tests point to the presence of hepatitis C?

A "liver panel" usually includes tests called AST, ALT, bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, and some others. Abnormal results could show up in many different conditions, not just hepatitis C. And even if the results of a liver panel are normal, you might still have hepatitis C. So, the liver panel alone cannot tell your provider the answer.

Hepatitis C can be diagnosed only by blood tests that are specific to hepatitis C:

  • A hepatitis C antibody test can tell you whether you have ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus, but can't by itself tell you whether the infection is still present.
  • A hepatitis C RNA test looks for the actual virus in the bloodstream. A positive result indicates an ongoing hepatitis C infection. If the RNA test result is negative (and remains negative after repeated testing), then you do not have a chronic hepatitis C infection.

In short, if the results of one or more tests on a liver panel are abnormal, generally speaking, the tests should be repeated and confirmed. If the results remain abnormal, your provider should be prompted to look for the cause.

More important than using the liver panel, if you have risks of having been infected with hepatitis C (such as injection drug use or a blood transfusion before 1992) then you should have the specific hepatitis C antibody test to determine if you have hepatitis C infection.