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Hepatitis C Virus Tests

How It Is Done

The health professional taking a sample of your 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.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure on the needle site, and then put on a bandage.

How It Feels

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.

Risks

There is very little chance of a problem from having a blood sample taken from a vein.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used several times a day to treat this.
  • Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.

Results

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) test is a blood test that looks for the genetic material (RNA) of the hepatitis C virus or for the proteins (antibodies) the body makes against HCV.

Results of hepatitis C virus testing that show no infection are called negative. This means that no antibodies against HCV or HCV genetic material was found. Results are usually available in 5 to 7 days.

Hepatitis C virus tests
Normal (negative):

No hepatitis C antibodies are found.

No hepatitis C genetic material (RNA) is found.

Abnormal (positive):

Hepatitis C antibodies are found. A test to detect HCV RNA is needed to determine whether the infection is current or occurred in the past. If HCV RNA is found, genotyping can determine which strain of HCV is causing the infection.

Hepatitis C RNA is detected. This result means a current hepatitis C virus infection.

What Affects the Test

Many conditions can change HCV antibody levels. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your symptoms and past health.

Your results may need to be rechecked if you are taking some herbs, supplements, or other alternative medicine products.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 06, 2011
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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