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PLoS One. 2019 Jul 8;14(7):e0219347. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219347. eCollection 2019.

Hepatitis B testing practices at a tertiary care centre and their associated costs: A retrospective analysis.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Clinical Practice Assessment Unit, Department of Medicine, McGill University Health Centre, Montréal, Québec, Canada.



Hepatitis B is a viral infection requiring specific serologic testing to diagnose the stage of the disease. There are many tests which can be ordered in a variety of combinations. This study aimed to assess routine Hepatitis B screening practices in a tertiary care centre and determine the diagnostic and economic benefits of protocolized ordering.


We evaluated all measurements of Hepatitis B total core antibodies, core IgM antibodies, surface antibodies and surface antigens performed at our institution between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015. We also recorded secondary testing (envelope antigens and antibodies, and viral DNA). Costs were estimated using provincial insurance reimbursement values. Using the subset of patients who received complete testing, we developed a reflexive screening protocol to minimize costs while simultaneously improving diagnostic utility.


30,335 hepatitis B tests were performed at an estimated total cost of $584,683. 53.9% of patients were screened with a single test. 29% of patients who received secondary testing had no evidence of exposure on primary testing. Using the protocol of initial testing of total core antibody and surface antibody with reflexive testing, we would save an estimated $181,632 (95% CI $154,201.90 -$208,910.50) per year while providing more complete information.


Screening practices for Hepatitis B are frequently inadequate to diagnose and stage the infection and often included unnecessary testing. Protocolization of Hepatitis B testing could limit this practice while resulting in significantly lower costs.

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Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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