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Hepatitis B virus (HBV) tests check for substances in the blood that show whether a hepatitis B infection is active or has occurred in the past. The tests look for different signs of infection (markers):
It is important to identify the type of hepatitis virus causing infection to prevent its spread and choose the proper treatment.
HBV is transmitted through infected body fluids, including blood, semen, and vaginal fluids (including menstrual blood). It also can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her child at or near the time of birth.
There are several different HBV tests. These are the HBV tests most commonly done:
Other HBV tests are not done as often:
A hepatitis B vaccine is available to prevent an HBV infection.
Infection with the hepatitis D virus (HDV), or delta agent, occurs only in people who are already infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Vaccination against hepatitis B will prevent hepatitis D infection. Hepatitis D infection is rare in the United States and Canada, except among people who inject illegal drugs and those who are frequently exposed to blood products. The hepatitis D test detects HDV antibodies. A positive test indicates only that you have been infected with HDV—it cannot distinguish between an acute or chronic infection. Another test, the HDV RNA test, is needed to determine whether you have an active HDV infection. It does not distinguish between an acute or chronic infection. This test currently is not available except in research settings.
Since hepatitis B infections can be spread through sexual contact, practice safer sex until your test results are returned.
Hepatitis B virus testing is done to:
No special preparation is needed before having hepatitis virus testing.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, or how it will be done. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
The health professional drawing blood will:
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.
There is very little risk of complications from having blood drawn from a vein.
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.
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 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.
Your doctor will talk with you about anything that may stop you from having the test or that may change the test results.
Other Works Consulted
- Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
- Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
- Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology|
|Last Revised||October 29, 2012|
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