What Is a Hepatitis Viral Panel?
virus panel is an array of tests used to detect viral hepatitis
infections. It can distinguish between current and past infections.
The viral panel
uses antibody and antigen tests, which allows it to detect multiple kinds of
viruses simultaneously. Antibodies are proteins made by your body’s immune
system to fight against harmful substances. Antibodies react to proteins known
as antigens. Antigens may be from fungi, bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
Each antibody recognizes a specific type of antigen. It can also distinguish
between current and past infections.
What the Test Addresses
Your doctor may
recommend a hepatitis viral panel if you have symptoms of hepatitis, such as:
- abdominal pain or bloating
- dark colored urine
- low-grade fever
- nausea and vomiting
- weight loss
- breast development in males
- general itching
The viral panel is
- detect current or past hepatitis
- determine how contagious your
- monitor your hepatitis treatment
- check whether you’ve been
The test may also
be performed to detect:
- chronic persistent hepatitis
- delta agent (hepatitis D), a rare
form of hepatitis that only occurs in people with hepatitis B (HBV)
- nephrotic syndrome, a type of
Where and How the Test Is Administered
Your doctor will
need to take a sample of blood from your arm.
To do this, they’ll
clean the site with a swab of rubbing alcohol and insert a needle into a vein
that’s attached to a tube. When enough blood has collected in the tube, the
needle is removed. The site is covered with an absorbent pad.
If the blood sample
is being taken from an infant or young child, the doctor will use a tool called
a lancet. This pricks the skin and may be less frightening than a needle. The
blood will be collected on a slide and a bandage will cover the site.
The blood sample
goes to a laboratory for analysis.
Understanding the Results
If your results are
normal, you don’t have hepatitis and have never been infected with hepatitis or
been vaccinated for it.
If your blood
sample tested positive for antibodies, it may mean a few things:
- You have a hepatitis infection. It
may be a recent infection or you may have had it for a long time.
- You have had a hepatitis infection
in the past, but you do not have it now. You are not contagious.
- You have been vaccinated for
Hepatitis A (HAV) Test Results
- IgM HAV antibodies mean that you
have recently been infected with HAV.
- IgM and IgG HAV antibodies mean
that you have had HAV in the past or been vaccinated for HAV. If both tests are
positive, you have an active infection.
Hepatitis B (HBV) Test Results
- HBV surface antigen means you are
currently infected with HBV. This may be a new or chronic infection.
- Antibody to HBV core antigen means
you have been infected with HBV. This is the first antibody to appear after
- Antibody to HBV surface antigen
(HBsAg) means you have been vaccinated for or infected with hepatitis B.
- HBV type e antigen means you have
HBV and are currently contagious.
Hepatitis C (HCV) Test Results
- Anti-HCV test means you have been
infected with HCV or are currently infected.
- HCV viral load means there is
detectable HCV in your blood and you are contagious.
What Are the Risks of the Test?
As with any blood
test, there are minimal risks. You may experience minor bruising at the needle
site. In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after blood is drawn. This
condition, known as phlebitis, can be treated with a warm compress several
times each day.
could be a problem if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinning
medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin.
Preparation for the Test
There are no
special preparations necessary for this test. You should inform your doctor if
you are taking any blood thinning medications. Your doctor may advise you to
stop taking certain medications.
What to Expect After the Test
Whether you are
contagious depends on which virus you are infected with and how long you’ve
been infected. It’s possible to spread viral hepatitis even when you don’t have
If you’ve been
diagnosed with HAV, you’re contagious from the beginning of your infection up
to two weeks.
If you have HBV or
HCV, you will be contagious for as long as the virus is present in your blood.
Depending on your
results, your doctor will decide the correct course of action.