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Hepatitis A, B, and C Blood Tests

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KEY POINTS

  • Hepatitis is a general term that means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A, B, and C are 3 of the main hepatitis viruses that can infect the liver. Hepatitis A, B, and C blood tests check to see if your child has one of these viruses.
  • A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in your child’s arm with a needle. In younger children, this test can be done with a finger prick or heel stick. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.
  • Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about what the test results mean and ask any questions you have.

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What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a general term that means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A, B, and C are 3 of the main hepatitis viruses that can infect the liver. The liver is one of the largest organs and is a very important part of your child’s body. Some of the functions of the liver include:

  • It helps your child’s body get rid of some medicines and harmful substances.
  • It makes bile, which helps your child’s body digest fats.
  • It stores glucose (sugar), which your child’s body uses for energy.
  • It makes many proteins, which are the building blocks for all cells in your child’s body.

When your child has hepatitis, the liver is irritated (inflamed). It may be swollen and tender. Areas of liver tissue may be destroyed.

Why are these tests done?

Hepatitis A, B, and C blood tests check to see if your child has one of these viruses. Each type of hepatitis is treated differently. Knowing which virus your child has helps your child’s healthcare provider decide on treatment. Once treatment has begun, additional tests may be used to see how well your child’s treatment is working.

How do I prepare my child for these tests?

Usually no preparation is needed for these tests.

Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you have any questions.

How are the tests done?

Having these tests will take just a few minutes. A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in your child’s arm with a needle. In younger children, this test can be done with a finger prick or heel stick. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider when and how you will get the result of your child’s test.

What do the test results mean?

Hepatitis antigen tests check to see if your child has the virus in the blood. Antibody tests check your child’s body's reaction to the infection.

Hepatitis A tests:

  • A positive antigen test and a positive antibody test means your child currently has a hepatitis A infection.
  • A negative antigen test and a positive antibody test means your child either had hepatitis A in the past or has had a vaccine to protect against hepatitis A. Your child usually won’t get hepatitis A again.
  • A negative test result means that antibodies were not found, which means that your child has never been infected with or received a vaccine against hepatitis A and could still get it.

Hepatitis B tests:

  • A positive antigen test and a positive core antibody test mean your child currently has a hepatitis B infection.
  • A negative antigen test with a positive surface antibody test mean your child either had hepatitis B in the past or has had a vaccine to protect against hepatitis B. Your child usually won’t get hepatitis B again.
  • Another test measures the amount of hepatitis B virus in your child’s blood. It is sometimes called "viral load." The more virus your child has, the greater your child’s risk of serious liver problems.

Hepatitis C tests:

  • A positive antibody test may mean your child currently has or in the past had a hepatitis C infection.
  • A negative test result means either your child has not been infected or was infected recently and antibodies have not yet appeared. Another test might be needed in 6 months.
  • Other tests are done to measure the amounts and type of hepatitis C virus in the blood.

What if my child’s test result is not normal?

Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your child’s medical history, physical exam, and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about the results and ask questions, such as:

  • If your child needs more tests
  • What kind of treatment your child might need
  • What lifestyle, diet, or other changes your child might need to make
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-04-11
Last reviewed: 2018-09-12
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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