• Open Access

Developing an evidence-based guideline for the management of exposure to hepatitis B at a Victorian tertiary hospital


Correspondence to: Anna Pierce, Infectious Diseases Unit, Level 2 – Burnet Building, 85 Commercial Road, Melbourne, Victoria 3004; e-mail: a.pierce@alfred.org.au


Objective: To develop a guideline for the management of potential exposures to hepatitis B virus (HBV) at The Alfred Hospital, based on results of clinical audit, database analysis and literature review.

Methods: i) Retrospective record review of all histories of patients who received HBV immunoglobulin (HBIG) at The Alfred between 1/1/2007 and 30/9/2011. ii) Analysis of HBV serological results of men who have sex with men (MSM) on Victorian NPEP Service (VNPEPS) database between 10/8/2005 and 31/12/2011. iii) Literature review to determine risks of HBV transmission and best practice for prevention of HBV transmission.

Results: A total of 48 patients were potentially exposed to HBV and given HBIG, with sexual exposure the most common indication (n=20). The source was reported to be HBsAg positive in one case only. Of the MSM on the VNPEPS database, 63% were immune to HBV, and only 0.5% of patients tested had evidence of chronic HBV infection. The recommendations for use of HBIG in The Australian Immunisation Guidelines are ambiguous and differ from other international guidelines.

Conclusion: This audit at a tertiary referral hospital identified problems with the management of those potentially exposed to HBV. In those non-immune patients exposed to HBV, the combination of HBIG plus vaccination provides the best protection against infection. The risk of transmission of HBV is highly variable; rates of chronic HBV in PWID and MSM in Australia are low and do not warrant use of HBIG unless the source is known to be HBsAg positive.