The hepatitis virus panel is a series of blood tests used to detect current or past infection by hepatitis A, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. It can screen blood samples for more than one kind of hepatitis virus at the same time.
Note: Hepatitis D only causes disease in people who also have hepatitis B. It is not routinely checked on a hepatitis antibody panel.
Blood is typically drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.
Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.
In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. A bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.
The blood sample is sent to a laboratory for examination. Blood (serology) tests are used to check for antibodies to each of the hepatitis viruses.
No special preparation is needed.
Some people feel moderate pain when the needle is inserted to draw blood. Others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, you may feel some throbbing.
Your doctor may order this test if you have signs of hepatitis. It is used to:
Other conditions under which the test may be performed:
A normal result means no hepatitis antibodies are found in the blood sample. This is called a negative result.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly depending on the lab doing the test. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
There are different tests for hepatitis A and B. A positive test is considered abnormal.
A positive test may mean:
Hepatitis A test results:
Hepatitis B tests:
Antibodies to hepatitis C can usually be detected 4 - 10 weeks after the infection occurs. Other types of tests may be done to decide on treatment and monitor the hepatitis C infection.
Veins and arteries vary in size. Taking a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:
Hepatitis A antibody test; Hepatitis B antibody test; Hepatitis C antibody test; Hepatitis D antibody test
Pawlotsky J-M, Wedemeyer H. Acute viral hepatitis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 150.
Wilkins T, Malcolm JK, Raina D, Schade RR. Hepatitis C: diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2010;81:1351-1357.
Dienstag JL. Hepatitis B virus infection. N Engl J Med. 2008;359:1486-1500.
Updated by: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.
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