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:

  • HCG urine test
  • Quantitative pregnancy test (checks specific level of HCG in your blood)

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

Blood is typically drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is first cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.

Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm.

Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed. The puncture site is covered with an adhesive bandage to stop any bleeding.

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 or not. HCG level in the blood may also be high in women with certain types of ovarian tumors or in men with testicular tumors.

Normal Values

  • 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:

  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Miscarriage
  • Testicular cancer (in men)
  • Trophoblastic tumor
  • Hydatidiform mole
  • Ovarian cancer

What the risks are

There is very little risk in having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient 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)

Special 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 about 98% accurate. When the test is negative but pregnancy is still suspected, the test should be repeated in 1 week.

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