Positive ANA test results may be reported in different ways, depending on the test method.
Amount of autoantibody present
Indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA)—the results are reported as a titer. Titers are expressed as ratios, which are obtained by diluting a portion of the blood sample with saline (salt water). For example, a titer result 1:320 means that one part blood sample was mixed with 320 parts of saline and this was lowest ratio at which ANA was still detected. The lower the dilution ratio at which ANA is still detected, the higher the titer and the greater the amount of autoantibody present.
Immunoassay (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay, ELISA, or enzyme immunoassay, EIA)—the results are usually reported as a number with an arbitrary unit of measure (abbreviated as a "U" on the report, for example). A positive result from this method will be a number of units that is above the laboratory's reference number (cutoff) for the lowest possible value that is considered positive.
Patterns of cellular fluorescence
In addition to a titer, positive results on IFA will include a description of the particular type of fluorescent pattern seen. Different patterns have been associated with different autoimmune disorders, although some overlap may occur. Some of the more common patterns include:
Homogenous (diffuse)—associated with SLE, mixed connective tissue disease, and drug-induced lupus
Speckled—associated with SLE, Sjögren syndrome, scleroderma, polymyositis, rheumatoid arthritis, and mixed connective tissue disease
Nucleolar—associated with scleroderma and polymyositis
Centromere pattern (peripheral)—associated with scleroderma and CREST (Calcinosis, Raynaud syndrome, Esophageal dysmotility, Sclerodactyly, Telangiectasia)
An example of a positive result using the IFA method would give the dilution titer and a description of the pattern, such as "Positive at 1:320 dilution with a homogenous pattern."