1 From the Divisions of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Infectious Diseases, and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.
The opioid epidemic has resulted in rising rates of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in women of childbearing age. With this changing epidemiology in mind, the Infectious Diseases Society of America/American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases guidelines were updated in 2018 to recommend screening all pregnant women for HCV infection, irrespective of risk factors. Because HCV infection can affect maternal-fetal health and result in vertical transmission, presentation for pregnancy-related medical care represents an opportunity to diagnose and manage HCV infection, as well as prepare for treatment postpartum.
We performed a retrospective chart review spanning 2007-2016 to examine the epidemiology of HCV infection and opioid use disorder in a southern academic obstetrical clinic and to explore the impact of new screening guidelines if implemented. Composite data from the electronic health record and individual chart review were used to determine rates of HCV infection and opioid use disorder in obstetrics, explore patient demographics, and examine perinatal outcomes.
Rates of both opioid use disorder and chronic HCV infection increased significantly during the 10-year period of analysis. Patients diagnosed as having chronic HCV infection were primarily white (95%) and there was no observed impact of HCV on perinatal outcomes. HCV testing in pregnancy, even when patients had documented opioid use disorder, was infrequent (0.7% of all pregnancies). Documented follow-up for HCV postpartum for both mothers and infants was incomplete, with only one-third of identified HCV-exposed infants referred and only 9% receiving HCV testing at our institution.
HCV prevalence increased between 2007 and 2016, but screening and treatment of HCV in this southern obstetrical cohort was infrequent. The implementation of universal screening in pregnancy will likely identify additional cases, and an improved cascade of care will be necessary to address the HCV epidemic.