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Final Recommendation Statement

Hepatitis B Virus Infection: Screening

February 15, 2004

Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the U.S. government. They should not be construed as an official position of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This Recommendation is out of date

It has been replaced by the following: Hepatitis B Virus Infection in Adolescents and Adults: Screening (2020)

Recommendation Summary

Population Recommendation Grade
General, Asymptomatic Adult Population The USPSTF recommends against routinely screening the general asymptomatic population for chronic hepatitis B virus infection. D

Additional Information

Recommendation Information

Full Recommendation:

Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the U.S. government. They should not be construed as an official position of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) last addressed screening for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in the 1996 Guide to Clinical Preventive Services and made the following recommendations:

Screening with hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was recommended to detect active (acute or chronic) HBV in all pregnant women at their first prenatal visit (A Recommendation). Routine screening of the general population for HBV infection was not recommended (D Recommendation). Certain persons at high risk for HBV could be screened to assess their eligibility for vaccination (C Recommendation).1

Since then, the USPSTF criteria to rate the strength of the evidence have changed. Therefore, the recommendation statement that follows has been updated and revised based on the current USPSTF methodology and rating of the strength of the evidence.2

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The USPSTF found no evidence that screening the general population for HBV infection improves long-term health outcomes such as cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, or mortality. The prevalence of HBV infection is low; the majority of infected individuals do not develop chronic infection, cirrhosis, or HBV-related liver disease. Potential harms of screening include labeling, although there is limited evidence to determine the magnitude of this harm. As a result, the USPSTF concluded that the potential harms of screening for HBV infection in the general population are likely to exceed any potential benefits.

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  • Routine hepatitis vaccination has had significant impact in reducing the number of new HBV infections per year, with the greatest decline among children and adolescents. Programs that vaccinate health care workers also reduce the transmission of HBV infection.
  • Most people who become infected as adults or older children recover fully from HBV infection and develop protective immunity to the virus.
  • The main risk factors for HBV infection in the United States include diagnosis with a sexually transmitted disease, intravenous drug use, sexual contact with multiple partners, male homosexual activity, and household contacts of chronically infected persons. However, screening strategies to identify individuals at high risk have poor predictive value, since 30-40 percent of infected individuals do not have any easily identifiable risk factors.
  • Important predictors of progressive HBV infection include longer duration of infection and the presence of comorbid conditions such as alcohol abuse, HIV, or other chronic liver disease. Individuals with HBV infection identified through screening may benefit from interventions designed to reduce liver injury from other causes, such as counseling to avoid alcohol abuse and immunization against hepatitis A. However, there is limited evidence on the effectiveness of these interventions.
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The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and The American Academy of Family Physicians recommendations on screening for HBV infection can be accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv/vaccadults.htm.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommendations on screening for HBV infection were published in:Guidelines for Perinatal Care. American Academy of Pediatrics/ACOG. 5th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL; American Academy of Pediatrics. 2002.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on screening for HBV infection can be accessed at https://www.aap.org/.

The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine recommendations on screening for HBV infection can be accessed at https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2664089/hepatitis-b-vaccination-screening-linkage-care-best-practice-advice-from?_ga=2.177972774.2005543989.1557510775-244685905.1557510775 and https://www.acponline.org

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Members of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force* are are Alfred O. Berg, M.D., M.P.H., Chair, USPSTF (Professor and Chair, Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA); Janet D. Allan, Ph.D., R.N., C.S., Vice-chair, USPSTF (Dean, School of Nursing, University of Maryland Baltimore, Baltimore, MD); Ned Calonge, M.D., M.P.H. (Acting Chief Medical Officer, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Denver, CO); Paul Frame, M.D. (Tri-County Family Medicine, Cohocton, NY, and Clinical Professor of Family Medicine, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY); Joxel Garcia, M.D., M.B.A. (Deputy Director, Pan American Health Organization, Washington, DC); Russell Harris, M.D., M.P.H. (Associate Professor of Medicine, Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC); Mark S. Johnson, M.D., M.P.H. (Professor of Family Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ); Jonathan D. Klein, M.D., M.P.H. (Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, NY); Carol Loveland-Cherry, Ph.D., R.N. (Executive Associate Dean, School of Nursing, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI); Virginia A. Moyer, M.D., M.P.H. (Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas at Houston, Houston, TX); C. Tracy Orleans, Ph.D. (Senior Scientist, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, NJ); Albert L. Siu, M.D., M.S.P.H. (Professor of Medicine, Chief of Division of General Internal Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY); Steven M. Teutsch, M.D., M.P.H. (Senior Director, Outcomes Research and Management, Merck & Company, Inc., West Point, PA); Carolyn Westhoff, M.D., M.Sc. (Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Professor of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY); and Steven H. Woolf, M.D., M.P.H. (Professor, Department of Family Practice and Department of Preventive and Community Medicine and Director of Research, Department of Family Practice, Virginia Commonwealth University, Fairfax, VA).

* Member of the USPSTF at the time this recommendation was finalized. For a list of current Task Force members, go to https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/about-uspstf/current-members.

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Available Products

This recommendation statement and the brief update, Screening for Hepatitis B Infection: A Brief Evidence Update for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force,3 are available on the USPSTF Web site at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org.

Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the U.S. Government. They should not be construed as an official position of AHRQ or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Copyright and Electronic Dissemination

This document is in the public domain within the United States.

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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) grades its recommendations according to one of five classifications (A, B, C, D, I) reflecting the strength of evidence and magnitude of net benefit (benefits minus harms).

The USPSTF has updated its definition of the grades it assigns to recommendations. The definitions below (of USPSTF grades and quality of evidence ratings) were in use prior to the update and apply to recommendations voted on by the USPSTF prior to May 2007.

A—Strongly Recommended: The USPSTF strongly recommends that clinicians provide [the service] to eligible patients. The USPSTF found good evidence that [the service] improves important health outcomes and concludes that benefits substantially outweigh harms.

B—Recommended: The USPSTF recommends that clinicians provide [the service] to eligible patients. The USPSTF found at least fair evidence that [the service] improves important health outcomes and concludes that benefits outweigh harms.

C—No Recommendation: The USPSTF makes no recommendation for or against routine provision of [the service]. The USPSTF found at least fair evidence that [the service] can improve health outcomes but concludes that the balance of benefits and harms is too close to justify a general recommendation.

D—Not Recommended: The USPSTF recommends against routinely providing [the service] to asymptomatic patients. The USPSTF found at least fair evidence that [the service] is ineffective or that harms outweigh benefits.

I—Insufficient Evidence to Make a Recommendation: The USPSTF concludes that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routinely providing [the service]. Evidence that the [service] is effective is lacking, of poor quality, or conflicting and the balance of benefits and harms cannot be determined.

Quality of Evidence

The USPSTF grades the quality of the overall evidence for a service on a 3-point scale (good, fair, poor):

Good: Evidence includes consistent results from well-designed, well-conducted studies in representative populations that directly assess effects on health outcomes.

Fair: Evidence is sufficient to determine effects on health outcomes, but the strength of the evidence is limited by the number, quality, or consistency of the individual studies, generalizability to routine practice, or indirect nature of the evidence on health outcomes.

Poor: Evidence is insufficient to assess the effects on health outcomes because of limited number or power of studies, important flaws in their design or conduct, gaps in the chain of evidence, or lack of information on important health outcomes.

Current as of May 2008

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  1. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Guide to Clinical Preventive Services, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1996.
  2. Harris RP, Helfand M, Woolf SH, Lohr KN, Mulrow CD, Teutsch SM, Atkins D, for the Methods Word Group, third U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Current methods of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: a review of the process. Am J Prev Med 2001;20(3S):21-35.
  3. Screening for Hepatitis B Virus Infection: A Brief Evidence Update for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Rockville, MD, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2004. Available at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org.
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