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Hepatitis is a medical term used to describe liver damage that has been caused by a virus. Hepatitis screening tests can check for the presence of the hepatitis virus and can also determine if the virus has ever been in the body. This hepatitis screening is performed by testing blood that has been taken from a vein. There are different types of hepatitis, and this kind of screening can detect which form or forms of the virus are in the body.
A hepatitis screening test may be ordered by a physician as part of routine lab work, or it may be ordered if the doctor suspects that liver damage may be present. Before the screening test, an area on the arm is usually cleansed with an alcohol pad. An elastic band may then be wrapped around the upper portion of the arm to help blood accumulate in the vein that will be used for the test, making the vein easier to see.
A needle is gently inserted into a vein in the arm. There may be some discomfort experienced at this time, but it is not usually very painful. Blood is then collected into one or more tubes for testing. The elastic band is removed from the arm, the needle is removed, and a bandage or cotton ball may be taped to the site to help stop the bleeding.
The blood sample collected for the hepatitis screening is then sent to an outside laboratory for testing. It may take several days for the doctor to get the results of the hepatitis screening. Once the results are available, the patient will be notified, and treatment will begin if necessary. The patient will be notified of the results by the doctor, not by the laboratory that performs the actual testing.
The results of the hepatitis screening will tell the doctor several things. If there is a current hepatitis virus in the body, this test will reveal this information. The test will also show the doctor whether there has ever been a hepatitis infection present. If hepatitis is present, the hepatitis screening will help the doctor know just how contagious the patient is to others, and the patient will be instructed concerning any precautions that need to be taken to avoid infecting others. This type of hepatitis screening may be repeated from time to time so the doctor can monitor the progression of the condition and develop an individualized treatment plan based on the results of the screening.