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Hepatitis C RNA Test

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KEY POINTS

  • The hepatitis C RNA test is a blood test that can show if your child has been infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) or to check how well treatment is working.
  • A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in your child’s arm with a needle. In younger children, this test can be done with a finger prick or heel stick. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.
  • Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about what the test results mean and ask any questions you have.

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What is a hepatitis C RNA test?

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is contagious and can be life-threatening.

Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a molecule that is in all of the body’s cells. RNA carries information that tells cells to grow, divide, and die. The hepatitis C virus also contains RNA. The HCV RNA can bind to and enter the cells in your child’s body and make more of the virus RNA and virus protein. The HCV RNA test measures how much of the hepatitis C virus RNA is in your child’s blood. This is called the viral load.

Why is this test done?

The HCV RNA test is used to find out if your child currently has a hepatitis C infection, or if she had one in the past.

If a woman is pregnant and infected with HCV, the baby can be infected at birth. Testing for HCV RNA can be done at or after the infant’s first well-child visit at age 1 to 2 months.

This test may be done after your child has a positive HCV antibody test. The test may also be used to:

  • Help find out what kind of treatment might work best
  • Monitor how well treatment works

How do I prepare my child for this test?

Usually no preparation is needed for this test.

How is the test done?

Having this test will take just a few minutes. A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in your child’s arm with a needle. In younger children, this test can be done with a finger prick or heel stick. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider when and how you will get the result of your child’s test.

What does the test result mean?

A high viral load usually means that the virus is active in your child’s body. A very low level of the hepatitis C virus means that your child’s treatment is working well. A separate test can help identify the type of HCV virus your child has.

What if the test result is not normal?

Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your child’s medical history, physical exam, and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about the result and ask questions such as:

  • If your child needs more tests
  • What kind of treatment your child might need
  • What lifestyle, diet, or other changes your child might need to make
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2018-07-25
Last reviewed: 2018-05-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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