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.
Antibody and antigen tests can detect each of the different hepatitis viruses.
Note: Hepatitis D only causes disease in people who also have hepatitis B. It is not routinely checked on a hepatitis antibody panel.
Hepatitis A antibody test; Hepatitis B antibody test; Hepatitis C antibody test; Hepatitis D antibody test
How the test is performed
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.
How to prepare for the test
No special preparation is needed.
How the test will feel
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.
Why the test is performed
Your doctor may order this test if you have signs of hepatitis. It is used to:
Detect current or previous hepatitis infection
Determine how contagious a person with hepatitis is
Monitor a person who is being treated for hepatitis
Other conditions under which the test may be performed:
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.
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.