Does this test have other names?
hepatitis screen; hepatitis A ab screen; hepatitis A antibody (HAAb), IgM antibody;
hepatitis B ab screen; hepatitis B core antibody (HBcAb), IgM antibody; hepatitis
B surface antigen (HBsAg); HBsAG; anti-HBs; HBsAB; anti-HBc; HBcAB; hepatitis B surface
antibody; hepatitis B core antibody; hepatitis B e antigen, hepatitis B e antibody,
hepatitis C ab screen; hepatitis C antibody
What is this test?
This is a panel of blood tests that looks to see whether you have a hepatitis virus
infection. The tests may be known by different names, depending on your provider and
lab. The tests look for antibodies that your body has made against a hepatitis virus.
They also look for parts of a specific virus (antigens).
Hepatitis affects the liver. Hepatitis is the general word for liver swelling (inflammation).
Viral hepatitis is the term for hepatitis caused by several viruses. Common viruses
include hepatitis A, B, and C. These are more likely to cause liver damage. These
infect people through different routes and cause varying degrees of liver problems.
Hepatitis A is spread by:
Coming in contact with contaminated stool
Eating food made by an infected person who didn't wash their hands after using the
Eating contaminated food or water
Putting an object in your mouth that came into contact with an infected person's stool
This test panel looks for the IgM antibody that your body made to fight this virus
at first. Or it looks for the total antibody to see if you had hepatitis A in the
past. Hepatitis A infection usually clears up without treatment after a few weeks.
If your symptoms continue, you need to see your healthcare provider again.
Hepatitis B is spread by:
Coming in contact with infected body fluids, including semen and blood
Using unsterilized tattoo equipment
Sharing contaminated hypodermic needles
Diagnosis of a current infection is based on the presence of the IgM antibody to the
hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) and a viral substance called hepatitis B surface
antigen (HBsAg). This virus can cause a long-lasting infection.
Hepatitis C is spread by coming in contact with blood from an infected person. This test looks
for the IgG antibody your body makes to fight the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C infections
usually become long-lasting.
Why do I need this test?
You may need this test if your healthcare provider suspects you have hepatitis caused
by a virus. Depending on the type of infection, your symptoms can include:
Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
Pale-colored stool (gray- or clay-colored)
Unusual bleeding and bruising
Swelling in the belly and lower legs
Loss of appetite
Visible blood vessels in the skin
Confusion in extreme cases
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Your healthcare provider may order other tests to help diagnose viral hepatitis. These
may include liver functions tests such as:
Alanine aminotransferase, or ALT
Aspartate aminotransferase, or AST
Gamma-glutamyltransferase, or GGT
Prothrombin time, or PT
Liver function tests look for enzymes in your blood that show how the liver is working.
They also test your liver's ability to make certain substances and look at how well
your liver filters your blood. Other tests are often done to make sure the liver is
healthy and you have no other liver disease.
You may need other tests to look for viral DNA or RNA. You may also have testing for
other hepatitis viruses.
What do my test results mean?
Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used
for the test, and other things. Your test results may not mean you have a problem.
Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you.
Test results for these viruses can mean you have:
Hepatitis A. Normal results are negative, meaning you don't have the IgM antibody in your blood.
The antibody shows up 3 to 4 weeks after you are exposed to the virus. The antibody
peaks about a month after symptoms appear. The antibody typically can't be detected
3 to 4 months after symptoms begin. The total antibody test for hepatitis A will be
positive if you've ever had hepatitis A. If your test results are positive, it doesn't
necessarily mean you have a current infection. It may mean you had an infection in
the past or it's a false-positive.
Hepatitis B. Normal antigen results are negative, meaning you don't have the HBsAg antigen in your
blood. The HBsAg is usually found if you have either acute or chronic infection. It
usually shows up 2 to 6 weeks after you are exposed to the virus. The antigen peaks
shortly before or after symptoms begin, and typically can't be detected 1 to 3 months
after it peaks. Normal hepatitis B core antibody results are negative. A positive
hepatitis B core antibody test may mean you have a current or past hepatitis B infection.
A positive hepatitis B surface antibody test means you are protected against the hepatitis
B virus. This could be from getting the hepatitis B vaccine or from a past hepatitis
B infection. If you have hepatitis B, your provider will check the antibody and antigen
test results. The purpose of these tests is to better understand your hepatitis B
infection to plan your treatment.
Hepatitis C. Normal results are negative. This means you don't have the IgG antibody in your blood.
The antibody may peak 6 to 12 months after you are exposed to the virus.
How is this test done?
The test is done with a blood sample. A needle is used to draw blood from a vein in
your arm or hand.
Does this test pose any risks?
Having a blood test with a needle carries some risks. These include bleeding, infection,
bruising, and feeling lightheaded. When the needle pricks your arm or hand, you may
feel a slight sting or pain. Afterward, the site may be sore.
What might affect my test results?
A past infection with hepatitis A can give a false-positive result. This means it
shows you have a current infection even though you don't.
How do I get ready for this test?
You don't need to prepare for this test. But talk with your healthcare provider about
your risk factors for hepatitis infection. Be sure your healthcare provider knows
about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes
medicines that don't need a prescription and any illegal drugs you may use.