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Hepatitis Panel

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.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; The ABCs of Hepatitis [updated 2016; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 6 screens]. Available from:
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Hepatitis C: Why People Born Between 1945 and 1965 Should Get Tested; [updated 2016; cited 2017 Aug 1]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Viral Hepatitis: Hepatitis A [updated 2015 Aug 27; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Viral Hepatitis: Hepatitis B [updated 2015 May 31; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Viral Hepatitis: Hepatitis C [updated 2015 May 31; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Viral Hepatitis: Hepatitis Testing Day [updated 2017 Apr 26; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 2 screens]. Available from:
  7. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Acute Viral Hepatitis Panel: Common Questions [updated 2014 May 7; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 5 screens]. Available from:
  8. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Acute Viral Hepatitis Panel: The Test [updated 2014 May 7; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 4 screens]. Available from:
  9. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Acute Viral Hepatitis Panel: The Test Sample [updated 2014 May 7; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  10. National Cancer Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms: antibody [cited 2017 May 31]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  11. National Cancer Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms: antigen [cited 2017 May 31]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  12. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What Are the Risks of Blood Tests? [updated 2012 Jan 6; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 5 screens]. Available from:
  13. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What To Expect with Blood Tests [updated 2012 Jan 6; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 4 screens]. Available from:
  14. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Hepatitis [cited 2017 May 31]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  15. National Institute of Drug Abuse [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Viral Hepatitis–A Very Real Consequence of Substance Use [updated 2017 Mar; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  16. NorthShore University Health System [Internet]. NorthShore University Health System; c2017. Hepatitis Panel [updated 2016 Oct 14; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  17. NorthShore University Health System [Internet]. NorthShore University Health System; c2017. Hepatitis B Virus Tests [updated 2017 Mar 3; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  18. UF Health: University of Florida Health [Internet]. University of Florida; c2017. Hepatitis Virus Panel: Overview [updated 2017 May 31; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 2 screens]. Available from:
  19. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2017. Health Encyclopedia: Hepatitis Panel [cited 2017 May 31]; [about 2 screens]. Available from:
  20. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health; c2017. Health Information: Hepatitis Panel [updated 2016 Oct 14; cited 2017 May 31]; [about 5 screens]. Available from:

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The medical information provided is for informational purposes only, and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact your health care provider with questions you may have regarding medical conditions or the interpretation of test results.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
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