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HCG blood test - qualitative

Definition

A qualitative HCG blood test checks if there is a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin in your blood. HCG is a hormone produced in the body during pregnancy.

Other HCG tests include:

Alternative Names

Beta-HCG in blood serum - qualitative; Human chorionic gonadotrophin - serum - qualitative; Pregnancy test - blood - qualitative; Serum HCG - qualitative; HCG in blood serum - qualitative

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed. This is usually taken from a vein. The procedure is called a venipuncture.

How to Prepare for the Test

No special preparation is necessary.

How the Test Will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the Test is Performed

Most often, this test is performed to determine if you are pregnant. HCG level in the blood may also be high in women with certain types of ovarian tumors or in men with testicular tumors.

Normal Results

  • The test is negative if you are not pregnant.
  • The test is positive if you are pregnant.

What Abnormal Results Mean

If your blood HCG is positive and you do not have a pregnancy properly implanted in the uterus, it may indicate:

Risks

There is very little risk in having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks of having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Blood accumulating under the skin (hematoma)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

Considerations

False positive tests may occur when certain hormones are increased, such as after menopause or when taking hormone supplements.

A pregnancy test is considered to be very accurate. When the test is negative but pregnancy is still suspected, the test should be repeated in 1 week.

References

Lee P, Pincus MR, McPherson RA. Diagnosis and management of cancer using serologic tumor markers. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 74.

Webster RA. Reproductive function and pregnancy. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 25.

Review Date:11/16/2014
Reviewed By:Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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