ELISA stands for enzyme-linked immunoassay. It is a commonly used laboratory test to detect antibodies in the blood. An antibody is a protein produced by the body's immune system when it detects harmful substances, called antigens.
How the Test is Performed
A blood sample is needed. Most of the time, blood is drawn from a vein located on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.
How the Test will Feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
How to Prepare for the Test
No special preparation is needed.
Normal values depend on the type of substance being identified. Some laboratories use different measurements or test different samples. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your health care provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
Veins and arteries vary in size from one person 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 lightheaded
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal values depend on the type of substance being identified. In some people, a positive result may be normal.
Why the Test is Performed
This test is often used to see if you have been exposed to viruses or other substances that cause infection. It is also used to screen for current or past infections.
Aoyagi K, Ashihara Y, Kasahara Y. Immunoassay and immunochemistry. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 44.
Murray PR. The clinician and the microbiology laboratory. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 16.