How common is it for people with chronic hepatitis C to need a liver transplant?
Answer From Elizabeth Rajan, M.D.
Liver failure due to hepatitis C is one of the most common reasons for liver transplantation in the United States. But researchers can provide only rough estimates of the risk and rate of progression to liver failure in chronic hepatitis C.
Without treatment, most people who get hepatitis C remain infected for life. Infections that persist in this way are called "chronic."
Chronic hepatitis C infection causes ongoing liver inflammation that leads to scarring (fibrosis). As fibrosis progresses, scars gradually replace healthy liver tissue.
Advanced liver fibrosis leads to damage of the normal liver architecture and leads to the growth of new liver cells (regenerative nodules). This stage of liver damage is known as cirrhosis. Hepatitis C-related liver failure is usually a result of cirrhosis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that out of 100 people infected with hepatitis C, more than half will develop chronic liver disease — specifically, hepatitis and fibrosis — and 5 to 25 will develop cirrhosis over a period of 10 to 20 years. An estimated 1 to 5 out of 100 people with chronic hepatitis C will die of cirrhosis or liver cancer resulting from the infection.
Nov. 21, 2020
Elizabeth Rajan, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Hepatitis C questions and answers for health professionals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/HCVfaq.htm. Accessed Nov. 6, 2020.
- Cirrhosis. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hepatic-and-biliary-disorders/fibrosis-and-cirrhosis/cirrhosis. Accessed Nov. 6, 2020.
- Chopra S, et al. Clinical manifestations and natural history of chronic hepatitis C virus infection. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Nov. 6, 2020.