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Purified protein derivative standard; TB skin test; Tuberculin skin test
The PPD skin test is a method used to diagnose tuberculosis. PPD stands for purified protein derivative.
How the Test is Performed
The test site (usually the forearm) is cleansed. The PPD extract is then injected under the top layer of skin, causing a blister to form on the skin.
The reaction will take 48 - 72 hours to develop. You must return to your health care provider within that time to have the area checked. This will determine whether you have had a significant reaction to the PPD test. A reaction is measured in millimeters of hard swelling (induration) at the site.
How to Prepare for the Test
There is no special preparation for this test.
Tell your health care provider if you have ever had a positive PPD skin test. If so, you should not have a repeat PPD test.
Tell your doctor if you have a medical condition or if you take certain drugs, such as steroids, that can affect your immune system. These situations may lead to inaccurate test results.
How the Test Will Feel
You will feel a brief sting as a needle is inserted just below the skin surface.
Why the Test is Performed
The test is done to find out if you have been infected with tuberculosis.
A negative reaction (no induration) or a level of hard swelling that falls below the cutoff for each risk group may mean that a person has not been infected with the bacteria that cause TB. There are different cutoffs for children, people with HIV, and other risk groups.
Unfortunately, this is not a perfect test, and up to 20% of people infected with tuberculosis may not have a reaction on the PPD skin test. In addition, certain conditions that affect the immune system (cancer, recent chemotherapy, late-stage AIDS) may cause a false-negative test result.
What Abnormal Results Mean
The results of the test depend on the size of the skin reaction and on the person being tested.
A small reaction (5 mm of hard swelling at the site) is considered to be positive in people who have HIV, who are taking steroid therapy, or who have been in close contact with a person who has active tuberculosis.
Larger reactions (greater than or equal to 10 mm) are considered positive in people with diabetes or kidney failure, and in health care workers, among others. In people with no known risks for tuberculosis, a positive reaction requires 15 mm or more of hard swelling at the site.
Risks There is a very small risk of severe redness and swelling of the arm in people who have had a previous positive PPD test and who have the test again. There also have been a few cases of this reaction in people who have not been tested before.
A positive skin test does not necessarily mean that a person has active tuberculosis. More tests will be done to check whether active disease is present. Many people who were born outside the United States may have had a vaccine called "BCG," which can lead to a false-positive test result.
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