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HCG - qualitative - serum
Alternative namesBeta-HCG - qualitative serum; Human chorionic gonadotrophin - qualitative serum; Pregnancy test - blood; Qualitative serum beta-HCG; Serum HCG
DefinitionThis is a blood test to detect beta-HCG ( human chorionic gonadotropin ), a hormone normally produced during pregnancy.
How the test is performed
Blood is drawn from a vein, usually on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The puncture site is cleaned with antiseptic, and an elastic band cuff is placed around the upper arm to apply pressure and restrict blood flow through the vein. This causes veins below the band to fill with blood.
A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. During the procedure, the band is removed to restore circulation. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.
How to prepare for the testNo special preparation is usually necessary.
How the test will feelWhen the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
Why the test is performed
Most often, this test is performed to confirm or rule out pregnancy. Serum HCG may also be increased in women with certain types of ovarian tumors or men with testicular tumors.
HCG maintains progesterone production by the corpus luteum in the early part of pregnancy. By the time HCG drops at the beginning of the second trimester, the placenta can make sufficient progesterone to maintain the endometrium. HCG also stimulates the development of fetal gonads and synthesis of androgens (male hormones) by the fetal testes .
What abnormal results meanAbnormal results may indicate:
What the risks are
False positive tests may occur when certain hormones are increased, such as after menopause or when taking hormone supplements. A false positive result may also result from "phantom HCG" (when there is an abnormal interaction between the test and the patient's blood sample). This can be confirmed by a urine HCG test, which will be negative. Phantom HCG is suspected when the blood HCG test continues to be positive despite there being no pregnancy or genital tract tumor.
A pregnancy test is considered to be about 98% accurate. When the test is negative but pregnancy is still suspected, the test should be repeated in 1 week.
Update Date: 7/30/2003Douglas A. Levine, M.D., Gynecology Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT