Went up to UCSF this past Wednesday for my 6-month post-treatment checkup. My last blood draw (December 30th) showed no detectable Hepatitis C virus just over 6 months after the end of treatment with Sovaldi+Olysio.
Not only did I get a big hug from my hepatology nurse practitioner, but both my hepatologist AND my former nurse practitioner came in to congratulate me. The latter two have worked with me since 2007, when I went through my first treatment for HCV using interferon and ribavirin...and that was an 18 month sequence. You don't spend 18 months seeing someone anywhere from 1 to 4 times a month without bonding with them just a little bit. :)
Some other exciting news is that not only did my blood tests show no Hep C virus, they also showed--for the first time I can remember--normal AST/ALT scores, which reflect the level of aminotransferase activity in my liver. This is a Big Deal, because elevated scores are associated with liver damage (from Hep C and other causes). I've had elevated AST/ALT scores for 30 YEARS. (More information on AST/ALT scores can be found at http://www.hepatitiscentral.com/hcv/labs/liverenzymes.htm
So there's this new procedure called a FibroScan (http://www.myliverexam.com/en/lexamen-fibroscan.html
). This is designed to non-invasively determine how much damage has been done to my liver by the Hep C prior to treatment (e.g., extent of cirrhosis) and Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).
The UCSF liver clinic has purchased a FibroScan unit, and is training their staff in how to use the new system. As a result, they're looking for patients who will allow the staff to practice their new FibroScan skills on for free...but for this week only. After this week, they'll start charging for the procedure, and many medical insurance companies are reluctant to pay for FibroScans because they're new technology.
This is why I got home Wednesday nght from UCSF tonight and headed back up there Thursday morning.
The FibroScan took all of 10 minutes. I took off my shirt and raised my right arm over my head, and the technician placed what looked like a sort of ultrasound probe about the size and shape of a can of V-8 against my side, and asked me to breathe slowly and evenly. There was a series of thumps--I counted 13, although the first three were for calibration purposes only--and then we were done. The thumps are bursts of specifically tuned vibrations which are measured to see how flexible the liver is. Turns out there's a very high correlation between liver flexibility and levels of liver damage. The higher the damage, the less flexible the liver. The two scores I glimpsed before she cleared the screen were 1.84 and 10.0, but it'll take the staff hepatologist a little time to get around to reading and interpreting the scores into more traditional measurements
My treatment protocol at this point is getting a blood test every six months, and a physical exam yearly. So far, so good. :)