False positive hepatitis C antibody test

Grace Y. Minamoto, Doreen Lee, Adriana Colovai, Dana Levy, Ljiljana Vasovic, Keith W. Roach, Jonathan Shuter, Daniel Goldstein, David D’Alessandro, Ulrich P. Jorde, Victoria A. Muggia


Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) have been successfully used in patients with heart failure. However, LVADs may trigger immune activation, leading to higher frequencies of autoantibodies. We describe the clinical, epidemiological, and laboratory characteristics of LVAD recipients with false positive hepatitis C (FPHC) serology among 39 consecutive adult LVAD recipients who bridged to heart transplantation from January 2007 to January 2013 at Montefiore Medical Center. FPHC patients were identified as those with post-LVAD positive hepatitis C ELISA antibody tests and negative confirmatory testing with hepatitis C RNA PCR and/or radioimmunoblot assay. Ten (26%) patients previously seronegative for hepatitis C were found to have FPHC after device placement. Of the 39 patients, 32 had HeartMate II devices. The mean age at LVAD placement was 55 years. FPHC correlated with older age at the time of LVAD implantation and with receipt of packed red blood cell transfusions, but not with gender, fresh frozen plasma transfusions, panel reactive antibodies, globulin fraction, rheumatoid factor, or anticardiolipin antibodies. Clinicians should be aware of this increased risk of FPHC in older LVAD patients and those more heavily transfused in order to avoid unnecessary apprehension and possible delay in transplantation. Further studies should be done to evaluate the possible relationship between transfused blood products and immunomodulation.