What is a Hepatitis Panel?
Hepatitis is a type of liver disease. Viruses called hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are the most common causes of hepatitis. A hepatitis panel is a blood test that checks to see if you have a hepatitis infection caused by one of these viruses.
The viruses are spread in different ways and cause different symptoms:
- Hepatitis A is most often spread by contact with contaminated feces (stool) or by eating tainted food. Though uncommon, it can also be spread through sexual contact with an infected person. Most people recover from hepatitis A without any lasting liver damage.
- Hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected blood, semen, or other bodily fluids. Some people recover quickly from a hepatitis B infection. For others, the virus can cause long-term, chronic liver disease.
- Hepatitis C is most often spread by contact with infected blood, usually through sharing of hypodermic needles. Though uncommon, it can also be spread through sexual contact with an infected person. Many people with hepatitis C develop chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.
A hepatitis panel includes tests for hepatitis antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are proteins that the immune system produces to help fight infections. Antigens are substances that cause an immune response. Antibodies and antigens can be detected before symptoms appear.
Other names: acute hepatitis panel, viral hepatitis panel, hepatitis screening panel
What is it used for?
A hepatitis panel is used to find out if you have a hepatitis virus infection.
Why do I need a hepatitis panel?
You may need a hepatitis panel if you have symptoms of liver damage. These symptoms include:
You may also need a hepatitis panel if you have certain risk factors. You may be at a higher risk for a hepatitis infection if you:
- Use illegal, injectable drugs
- Have a sexually transmitted disease
- Are in close contact with someone infected with hepatitis
- Are on long-term dialysis
- Were born between 1945 and 1965, often referred to as the baby boom years. Though the reasons aren’t entirely understood, baby boomers are 5 times more likely to have hepatitis C than other adults.
What happens during a hepatitis panel?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You don’t need any special preparations for a hepatitis panel.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
A negative result means you probably don’t have a hepatitis infection. A positive result may mean you have or previously had an infection from hepatitis A, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. You may need more tests to confirm a diagnosis. If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.
Is there anything else I need to know about a hepatitis panel?
There are vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Talk to your health care provider to see if you or your children should get vaccinated.