Some doctors are requiting COVID antibody tests before you go under the knife

Coronavirus

FILE – In this Wednesday, May 20, 2020 file photo, a health worker takes a blood sample for a COVID-19 antibody test in Los Angeles. An antibody test might show if you had COVID-19 in the recent past, which most experts think gives people some protection from the virus. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — More COVID-19 antibody tests are rolling out in Central Virginia and some doctors are now requiring the test before certain procedures.

At PACS Urgent Care in eastern Virginia doctors can determine if you have been exposed to the novel coronavirus with a simple finger prick from your car.

“It’s a drive-by test. The results come back in 15 minutes,” Dr. Khaled Said and Doctor Walid Hammad, emergency physicians and the owners of PACS Urgent Care, explained. They recently upgraded their lab at the urgent care center to begin providing a COVID-19 antibody test to anyone who wants it.

“The tests that we have basically tests for those two antibodies the IgG and IgM,” said Dr. Hammad.

IgM indicates a recent infection and IgG appears when the body clears the infection. It’s still unclear if the presence of COVID-19 antibodies offers immunity or can prevent someone from getting the virus again. Yet, some surgeons are ordering the tests for patients before they go under the knife.

“So we have specialists calling us now saying ‘can you please test all my patients before I take them to the O-R,’” explained Dr. Said.

If the test indicates a recent infection with IgM antibodies, that could complicate the patient’s recovery from surgery. At VCU Health and Massey Cancer Center adult and pediatric patients aren’t being tested for antibodies right now.

However, Dr. David Lanning, the interim chief medical officer at VCU Medical Center and co-surgeon in chief at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, says patients must be given a COVID-19 nasal swab test before surgeries.

“We’re are testing anyone that is having a procedure, operation unless it is a very minor procedure,” Lanning said.

Lanning said it’s not only about protecting the patient but their medical team as well.

“It’s reassuring to the team members that they are not caring for a patient that is COVID positive,” noted Lanning.

Bon Secours and HCA Healthcare are also requiring COVID-19 PCR tests for some elective surgery patients. With regards to antibody testing Bon Secours says this:

At this time, Bon Secours is awaiting guidance from the FDA and CDC before moving forward with antibody testing. All of our latest updates can be found under the COVID-19 banner on our website www.bonsecours.com, including details about patient testing prior to surgery. We encourage patients to contact their practice directly with questions and for information about how this may affect their care.”

Bon Secours

In the meantime, Dr. Lanning reveals antibody testing at VCU Health is around the corner. He says, “So we actually are going to start providing antibody tests this coming Monday.” VCU has yet to determine how they will use the test.

Back at PACS Urgent Care, a local police department recently had its employees antibody tested after a confirmed case.

“The whole department came to us. Within half an hour, we tested them. In the next three or four hours and we were able send them back to work,” Dr. Said explained.

Dr. Hammad believes testing is key to better understanding this virus. He says, “We need to test the more population to figure out exactly how we are affected by this illness.”

The total cost for the PACS test is $135. There is some funding from the federal CARES ACT that can help those who are uninsured. You must make an appointment.

Quest Diagnostics is also offering antibody tests in the Richmond area. Quest says they offer two options to access antibody testing. One way is to go to your physician and have them order the test. We’re told this is covered by insurance.

If you do not want to visit a doctor, they can order a COVID-19 antibody test through QuestDirect. This service is self-pay and costs $119. We’re told a patient purchases the test and a physician associated with the service orders the test. Then, the patient is prompted to make an appointment at one of the service centers for the blood draw.

Turnaround time is typically 1-2 days. In addition, Granger Genetics in Midlothian also offers a test that provides results in 24 hours. The lab does drive up testing by appointment.

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