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Hepatitis B Test

This test measures the hepatitis B surface antibody to determine immunity due to previous infection or vaccination.

Collection method

Typically blood (venipuncture)

Test preparation

None

Restrictions

Ages 18+ only; Could vary by provider

Turnaround time

Typically 48-72 hours

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Hepatitis B testing

Hepatitis B testing is important for identifying the virus and monitoring its progression. Several tests are currently available to diagnose hepatitis B, including blood tests that detect specific antigens and antibodies produced by the virus. These tests can help determine if a person is currently infected, has been infected in the past and has cleared the virus, or has been vaccinated against hepatitis B. Early detection and treatment of hepatitis B can help prevent liver damage and improve outcomes.

What tests are used to diagnose hepatitis B?

Several tests are currently approved to diagnose the different variations of hepatitis—including hepatitis B. According to the CDC, these tests include:

  • HBV antibody test: A blood test that detects antibodies in the body that are produced in response to the hepatitis B virus. A positive result for this test indicates that a person has been infected with the virus at some point in their life.
  • HBV RNA test: This is a blood test that detects the genetic material (RNA) of the hepatitis B virus. A positive result indicates that the virus is currently present in the body.
  • HBV genotype test: This is a blood test that determines the specific genotype (strain) of the hepatitis B virus, which can help guide treatment decisions.
  • Liver function tests (LFTs): These blood tests measure the levels of various enzymes and proteins in the blood that indicate how well the liver is functioning. LFTs can help evaluate the presence and extent of liver damage caused by hepatitis B.

It is common for a combination of these tests to be used to confirm a diagnosis of hepatitis B, as noted by the Mayo Clinic.

Who should get tested for hepatitis B?

The CDC recommends that all adults get tested for hepatitis B at least once in their lifetime. Additionally, they also recommend the following testing:

  • Women in early pregnancy (every pregnancy)
  • Infants born to a mother who is positive for hepatitis B
  • People born in certain countries where hepatitis B is common
  • People born in the United States not vaccinated as infants and whose parents were born in countries with high rates of hepatitis B
  • Men who have sex with other men
  • People who use drug injection tools
  • People who are now or have been incarcerated
  • People with HIV
  • Household roommates and sexual partners of people with hepatitis B
  • People with STDs and/or multiple sex partners
  • People who are on immunosuppressive therapy
  • People with end-stage kidney disease (especially people on dialysis)
  • People with hepatitis C
  • People with high liver enzyme levels
  • People who are donors of blood, plasma, organs, tissues, or semen

What to expect with a hepatitis B test

Getting tested for hepatitis B is a straightforward process. The specific tests used may vary depending on the healthcare provider and testing facility, however, the Mayo Clinic describes the hepatitis blood test in a few simple steps.

A healthcare provider will take a small sample of your blood, usually from a vein in your arm or hand, then the blood sample will be sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results will usually be available within a few days to a week.

How long after exposure can hepatitis B be detected in a test?

The time it takes for hepatitis B to be detected in a test after exposure can vary depending on the type of test used. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, antibody tests can detect a hepatitis B infection in 1 to 9 weeks after exposure, with the average being around 4 weeks.

What happens if I test positive for hepatitis B?

If you test positive for hepatitis B, it is important to follow up with a healthcare provider for further evaluation and treatment. Treatment options for hepatitis B may include antiviral medications, which can help slow the progression of the disease and reduce the risk of complications. Your healthcare provider may also recommend lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and certain medications, to help protect your liver.

How to get a hepatitis B test

Hepatitis B testing can be done at most healthcare facilities—such as a hospital, walk-in clinic, urgent care, or primary care office. Some walk-in laboratories also offer hepatitis testing, without the need for a doctor's referral.

Can I get an at-home hepatitis B test?

Yes, there are at-home hepatitis B test kits available for purchase. These kits typically involve collecting a small blood sample by pricking your finger, which is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results are usually available within a few days to a week.

It is important to note that while at-home hepatitis B test kits may be convenient, they may not be as accurate as tests performed in a healthcare setting. If you receive a positive result from an at-home test, it is recommended that you follow up with a healthcare provider for confirmation and further evaluation. Additionally, if you are at risk for hepatitis B, it may be more appropriate to get tested in a healthcare setting, where you can discuss your risk factors and potential treatment options with a healthcare provider.

Cost of hepatitis B testing

The cost of hepatitis B testing in the USA can vary depending on several factors, including the specific type of test, the healthcare provider, your location, and your insurance coverage. Without insurance, the cost of a hepatitis B test can range from $21 to $339 or more for each test, according to FindLabTest.com.

More about hepatitis B

What is hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can cause life-threatening complications including liver failure and liver cancer. According to the Hepatitis B Organization, around 90% of people who become infected as adults will recover, however, the remaining 10% will develop a chronic hepatitis B infection.

How is hepatitis B transmitted?

Hepatitis B is commonly transmitted through contact with blood or body fluids, says the CDC; such transmissions include:

  • sex with an infected person
  • sharing drug injection tools
  • accidental needlestick in a healthcare setting
  • tattooing and piercing with improperly cleaned equipment
  • exposure to infected blood, saliva, vaginal fluids, or semen
  • from mother to child during childbirth

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?

Many people do not exhibit symptoms of hepatitis B, especially adults. However, according to The Liver Foundation, symptoms when they do appear include:

  • fever
  • darkened urine
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (a condition called jaundice)
  • joint pain
  • weakness and fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abdominal pain, especially on the right upper abdomen

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Hepatitis B Testing FAQs

Find answers to the most commonly asked questions about lab tests.

Hepatitis B testing is considered to be highly accurate, according to studies published with the NLM.
As with any test, there is a small chance that a false positive or false negative result will occur. If you are in a high-risk population, speak with your healthcare provider about your test results and whether you should have repeat testing.
For people who are not at high risk for hepatitis B, the CDC recommends men get tested at least once after age 18. Women get tested at least once after age 18 and during every pregnancy. Additional testing is recommended for:
  • Infants born to mothers with hepatitis B
  • People with a sexual partner who has hepatitis B
  • People with multiple sexual partners
  • People who have unprotected sex with a partner whose hepatitis B status is unknown
  • People who have sex with other men
  • Injection drug users
  • People with certain medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease or HIV infection
Yes, there is a safe and effective vaccine that is FDA-approved and available in the United States. It is recommended by the CDC as part of routine childhood vaccination.
Currently, there is no cure for hepatitis B. According to the CDC, there are antiviral medications that can help ease symptoms and slow the progression of the virus.

This publication is not intended to solicit the purchase of laboratory testing from any individual consumer.

Dr. Rob Rohatsch, MD

Updated on Jan 25, 2023

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rob Rohatsch, MD
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Dr. Rob Rohatsch currently serves as Chief Medical Officer for Solv Health. Dr. Rohatsch brings his extensive background in multi-site ambulatory medicine operations, on-demand healthcare, and consumerism to Solv, where he helps drive strategic initiatives in a cross functional executive role. He brings comprehensive healthcare expertise ranging from medical group operations to revenue cycle management and clinical expertise.

Dr. Rohatsch completed his military service in the US Air Force and earned his MD from Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Rohatsch served on the Yale School of Medicine faculty teaching at the medical school and is currently on faculty at the Haslam School of Business at the University of Tennessee teaching in the Executive MBA Program. He also serves on several boards and chairs The TJ Lobraico Foundation.

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