The skin test for tuberculosis (also known as the tuberculin test or the tuberculin IDR test) is a test used to determine if a person has developed an immune response to the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB). This response may occur if the person currently has TB, has been exposed to it in the past, or has received the BCG TB vaccine. The World Health Organization estimates that 2 billion people worldwide have latent tuberculosis, while about 3 million people worldwide die from tuberculosis each year.
Tuberculosis can be located in any organ, but most commonly the lung is affected, producing pulmonary tuberculosis. Extrapulmonary tuberculosis is rare and may have meningeal, renal, genital, bones, joints, digestive system, or other locations.
The clinical signs of tuberculosis depend on the location. Signs and symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis include cough (lasting three or more weeks), and chest pain. The cough may be dry or with sputum (sputum – mucus inside the lungs), sometimes with blood. Other signs are a lack of appetite, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills.
How much does a tuberculosis test cost?
The price tag on medical testing varies anywhere from $15 to $70 per test but luckily most people are able to get their health evaluated cheaper as long as they can find this kind of test in pharmacies like Walgreens or CVS, for less than $30. In case you want to have this test done by a doctor, expect to pay more than $110.
Money-conscious shoppers might be happy to know that there are cheaper options for getting their TB tests done. For instance, the CVS Minute Clinic charges $40 dollars just to test someone’s blood and another $35 as a lab reading fee. However, Walgreens offers a better price, at only $30 for one testing plus $28 extra if you want them read right then.
For example, for as low as $20 you can receive the TB test that is available from MuskegonHealth.net in Michigan.
The two-step test can help healthcare professionals and individuals to make sure that they are safe from TB, which is a deadly disease. The first skin test may come back as a false negative with some people because their immune system has already responded when they were exposed to TB sometime in the past but won’t show up on subsequent tests. This means that if you only do one step in this process, it’s possible your results would be incorrect. A second examination will help determine whether or not someone was previously infected by providing an accurate diagnosis at just $70 – $120 per exam.
Expect the cost of a Quantiferon TB blood test to vary from $80 – $130 depending on your location and whether or not you want to receive an e-mail or phone call with results.
Tuberculosis test details
How is the tuberculin test administered?
The recommended standard tuberculin test, known as the Mantoux test, is given by injecting a volume of 0.1 ml containing 5 UT (tuberculin units) of PPD into the upper layers of the skin (intradermally, just below the skin surface) of the forearm. There a skin area without abnormalities and far from the veins will be sought. The injection is done using a needle and a tuberculin syringe. PPD tuberculin is injected only under the skin surface. Slight swelling of the skin 6 to 10 mm in diameter should be produced when the injection is done correctly. This swelling is generally quickly absorbed. If the first test was given improperly, another test can be given by selecting an area a few inches away from the initial injection.
What is the method of “reading” the result of the skin test for tuberculosis?
“Reading” the skin test means detecting a raised, thickened area of local skin reactions, called induration. Induration is the key to detecting redness, the lack of redness or bruising. The result of the skin tests should be interpreted 48 – 72 hours after the injection when the induration size is at its max. Tests that are interpreted after more than 72 hours tend to give the wrong results due to the small size of the hardening.
What are the extra costs?
As you have already read above, a consultation at the doctor’s office often costs at least $110. Also, some medical offices charge extra fees for the interpretation of test results.
If your result is positive, your doctor will have you get more tests, like performing a chest x-ray and blood work. For example, if the blood test is confirmed as positive then the x-ray shows if the disease is active. All of these examinations are helping the doctors to better understand how best to treat patients.
Important things to remember
Tuberculosis is transmitted through the air, when people suffering from active forms of TB cough, sneeze, or eliminate sputum in the air (Pfluger drops).
Left untreated, tuberculosis kills more than 50% of those affected.
A negative test does not always mean that a person does not have tuberculosis.
A person who has received a BCG vaccine against tuberculosis may also have a positive skin reaction to the TB test.
The basis of reading the skin test is the presence or absence and the amount of induration (localized swelling), NOT the redness area.
A TB test is accepted for up to one year, while a chest x-ray will be influenced by the results. Most places require this test and accept it if you have passed them within two years of when they were taken, but policies do vary from place to place.
A TB skin test is painless. It’s really just a pinch and most people won’t feel anything at all.
How can I save money?
A lot of people are unaware that they can go to the health clinic or local health department for TB testing. They provide TB testing that will cost you nothing if you meet certain income requirements.
TB tests are required by many employers, but most people don’t know that they’re covered through their job.
You should investigate if your health insurance would cover this procedure.
Your college’s health or science department might offer discounts for students who need regular checkups and screenings.