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Hepatitis B Virus Tests

How It Is Done

The health professional drawing blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Apply a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Apply pressure to the site and then a bandage.

How It Feels

You may feel nothing at all from the needle puncture, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch as the needle goes through the skin. Some people feel a stinging pain while the needle is in the vein. But many people do not feel any pain (or have only minor discomfort) after the needle is positioned in the vein. The amount of pain you feel depends on the skill of the health professional drawing the blood, the condition of your veins, and your sensitivity to pain.

Risks

Blood test

There is very little risk of complications from having blood drawn from a vein.

  • You may develop a small bruise at the puncture site. You can reduce the risk of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes after the needle is withdrawn.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become inflamed after the blood sample is taken. This condition is called phlebitis and is usually treated with a warm compress applied several times a day.
  • Continued bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can also make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your health professional before your blood is drawn.

Results

Hepatitis B virus tests check for substances in the blood that show a hepatitis infection is active or has occurred in the past. The tests look for antigens or genetic material (DNA) of the virus that causes hepatitis. Some tests also look for antibodies that the body makes against the virus. Normal results of hepatitis virus testing are called negative. This means that no antigens, antibodies, or genetic material related to the hepatitis B virus was found.

Abnormal (positive)

Hepatitis B and D virus tests

Hepatitis B (HBV)

Hepatitis B (HBV) antibodies and/or antigens are detected. More tests may be needed to determine whether you have an acute or chronic (long-term) HBV infection.

  • Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) shows an active infection. If the test remains positive for longer than 6 months, this means you have a chronic HBV infection. You can spread the HBV infection to others.
  • Hepatitis B surface antibody (HBsAb) shows the end of active infection and means you are protected against HBV for life. It also can show that you received the HBV vaccine. Occasionally the test shows that you have both HBsAb antibodies and the HBsAg antigen. In this case you are still contagious.
  • Hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg) shows an active contagious state.
  • HBV DNA testing finds genetic material (DNA) from the hepatitis B virus and means that you have a current infection.
  • Hepatitis B core antibody (HBcAb) shows that you have been infected with HBV. It does not tell the difference between a past or present infection.
  • Hepatitis B core antibody IgM (HBcAbIgM) shows an HBV infection that has occurred within the last 6 months. It can also mean that a chronic hepatitis B infection has flared up.
  • Hepatitis B e-antibody (HBeAb) shows a less active HBV infection. You are less contagious but can still infect others.

Hepatitis D (HDV)

Hepatitis D antibodies are found. But this test cannot tell the difference between an acute and a chronic infection. Hepatitis D can only be present if hepatitis B is present.

 

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 29, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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