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HLA-B27 antigen

Definition

HLA-B27 is a blood test to look for a protein that is found on the surface of white blood cells. The protein is called human leukocyte antigen B27 (HLA-B27).

Human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) are proteins that help the body's immune system tell the difference between its own cells and foreign, harmful substances.

See also: Histocompatibility antigen test

Alternative Names

Human leukocyte antigen B27

How the test is performed

A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture

How to prepare for the test

No special preparation is usually needed.

How the test will feel

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

Why the test is performed

Your doctor may order this test if you have joint pain, stiffness, or swelling. HLA type B27 is associated with autoimmune diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis and Reiter syndrome. The test may be done along with other tests, including:

HLA antigen testing is also used to match donated tissue in a person who is getting an organ transplant. For example, it may be done when a person needs a kidney transplant or bone marrow transplant.

Normal Values

A normal (negative) result means HLA-B27 is absent.

What abnormal results mean

A positive test means HLA-B27 is present. It suggests a greater-than-average risk for developing or having certain autoimmune disorders. An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue.

An abnormal result may be caused by:

If there are symptoms or signs of an autoimmune disease, a positive HLA-B27 test may confirm the diagnosis. However, HLA-B27 is normally found in a small number of Caucasians and does not always mean you have a disease.

What the risks are

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

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

References

Miller FW. The spondyloarthropathies. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 286.

van der Linden SM, van der Heijde D, Maksymowych WP. Ankylosing spondylitis. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Harris ED, et al, eds. Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 70.


Review Date: 5/23/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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