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How should we manage the patient?


Dr J. Main, Department of Medicine A, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, St Mary's Hospital, Praed St, London W2 1NY, UK.


Summary.  The patient with HCV infection may present with a variety of problems and range from the asymptomatic patient with mild liver damage to a patient presenting with complications of cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma. The diagnosis of hepatitis C may be a complete surprise to the patient or be an expected diagnosis in someone with known risk factors. Similarly the physician may be faced with a patient who knows very little about hepatitis C or someone who has read extensively on the subject. The initial consultation is useful for gaining information on the patient's background, physical examination may give useful clinical clues on the stage of the liver disease. The consultation gives the physician a chance to educate the patient on the current thinking on hepatitis C and to organize confirmatory and other investigations that will help decide on the next line of management, i.e. whether the patient is a candidate for combination therapy of interferon and ribavirin.