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Hepatitis C (cont.)

Surgery

If chronic hepatitis C damages your liver so severely that it no longer works well (end-stage liver failure), you may need a liver transplant to extend your life. Liver transplants aren't common.

Surgery choices

A liver transplant is the only surgical treatment that can help people with end-stage liver failure.

What to think about

Liver transplantation is a risky, expensive procedure. And donor organs are hard to get. Most of the time, only people who are in good health (other than having liver disease) are considered for a transplant. You will not be considered if you are drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs, or have certain mental health problems.

After a liver transplant, you will need lifelong follow-up care by a specialist. You also will need to take immunosuppressant medicine to keep your body from rejecting the new liver. This medicine may cause other problems.

Hepatitis C almost always infects the newly transplanted liver. Recurring liver disease after a transplant can be a serious problem and may cause the new organ to fail. But most patients do very well after a liver transplant and are able to live normal lives.

Other Treatment

Some people seek out complementary medicines or alternative ways to treat their hepatitis C. At this time, no complementary or alternative medicines have been proved to reduce symptoms or cure hepatitis C. In fact, some herbal therapies (such as kava) may actually damage the liver.9

Preliminary studies of the herb milk thistle do show that it may help protect the liver from inflammation.10 The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine currently is conducting clinical trials on the use of milk thistle for hepatitis C. Talk to your doctor if you are thinking about trying milk thistle or any other complementary therapy to treat hepatitis C.

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