Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
(603) 742-5252
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+) font size
Site Search

Tuberculosis in the kidney
Tuberculosis in the kidney

Tuberculosis in the lung
Tuberculosis in the lung

Positive PPD skin test
Positive PPD skin test

PPD skin test
PPD skin test


The PPD skin test is a method used to diagnose tuberculosis . PPD stands for purified protein derivative.

Alternative Names:

Purified protein derivative standard; TB skin test; Tuberculin skin test

How the test is performed:

The test site (usually the forearm) is cleansed. The PPD extract is then injected under the top layer of skin, causing a blister to form on the skin.

The reaction will take 48 - 72 hours to develop. You must return to your health care provider within that time to have the area checked. This will determine whether you have had a significant reaction to the PPD test. A reaction is measured in millimeters of hard swelling (induration) at the site.

How to prepare for the test:

There is no special preparation for this test.

Tell your health care provider if you have ever had a positive PPD skin test. If so, you should not have a repeat PPD test.

Tell your doctor if you have a medical condition or if you take certain drugs, such as steroids, that can affect your immune system. These situations may lead to inaccurate test results.

How the test will feel:

You will feel a brief sting as a needle is inserted just below the skin surface.

Why the test is performed:

The test is done to find out if you have been infected with tuberculosis.

Normal Values:

A negative reaction (no induration) or a level of hard swelling that falls below the cutoff for each risk group may mean that you have not been infected with the bacteria that cause TB. There are different cutoffs for children, people with HIV, and other risk groups.

Unfortunately, this is not a perfect test. Up to 20% of people infected with tuberculosis may not have a reaction on the PPD skin test. In addition, certain conditions that affect the immune system (cancer, recent chemotherapy, late-stage AIDS) may cause a false-negative test result.

What abnormal results mean:

The results of the test depend on the size of the skin reaction and on the person being tested.

A small reaction (5 mm of hard swelling at the site) is considered to be positive in people:

  • Who have HIV
  • Who are taking steroid therapy
  • Who have been in close contact with a person who has active tuberculosis

Larger reactions (greater than or equal to 10 mm) are considered positive in:

  • People with diabetes or kidney failure
  • Health care workers

In people with no known risks for tuberculosis, a positive reaction requires 15 mm or more of hard swelling at the site.

What the risks are:

There is a very small risk of severe redness and swelling of the arm in people who have had a previous positive PPD test and who have the test again. There also have been a few cases of this reaction in people who have not been tested before.

Special considerations:

A positive skin test does not necessarily mean that a person has active tuberculosis. More tests will be done to check whether there is active disease.

Many people who were born outside the United States may have had a vaccine called "BCG," which can lead to a false-positive test result. However, many experts believe that a past BCG vaccination should not change the PPD result when the test is done 15 years after the vaccination.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Questions and answers about TB . 2007. Accessed September 28, 2008.

Review Date: 9/28/2008
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, PhD, MD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Find What You Need

About Us
Social Media Agreement
Joint Notice
Web Privacy Policy
WDH Staff Portal

Centers & Services

Cancer Center
Cardiovascular Care
Joint Replacement
Women & Children's
Physician Offices
Other Services

Conditions & Treatments

Health Information
Ebola Information

Support Services

Support Groups
Dental Center
Social Work
Food & Nutrition
Integrative Wellness
Spiritual Care
Concerns & Grievances
Homecare and Hospice

For Patients

Pay Your Bill Online
Pricing Estimates
Financial Assistance
Interpreter Services
Surgery Preparation
Medical Record Request
Advance Directives
Clinical Research & Trials

For Healthcare Professionals

Work and Life
Financial Well-Being
Career and Growth

The Wentworth-Douglass Health System includes:



Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100