What is the H. pylori breath test?
The H. pylori breath test is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that detects the presence of an H. pylori infection by measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in a person’s breath when they exhale. Carbon dioxide is produced in the human body by certain bacteria, including H. pylori . In the stomach, most CO 2 is produced from carbohydrate digestion, and 10 percent comes from bacterial production. The more H. pylori bacteria there are in a stomach, the more CO 2 will be present in a person’s breath after exhalation. Detection of high levels of CO 2 can indicate either past or present H. pylori infection .
What are the procedures involved in an H. pylori breath test?
There are three possible methods of performing this breath test: 1) using a 13C- or 14C-labeled urea solution to administer the urea breath test (UBT), 2) using a 13C- or 14C- labeled phenol solution to administer the H. pylori antibody-urea breath test (Ab-UBT), or 3) using 13C labeled octanoic acid to administer the Helicobacter pylori breath test (HpBT). The abbreviation “Hp” is used in reference to Helicobacter pylori, while “HpBT” refers to Helicobacter pylori breath test.
In general, the 13C-labeled urea breath test involves testing a person’s expired CO 2 following ingestion of a urea solution containing labeled carbon atoms as the diagnostic measure for H. pylori infection. In this procedure, patients take a drink containing 13C-labeled urea, which is metabolized by the H. pylori bacteria in the stomach to 13CO 2 . Upon exhalation, breath samples are collected and analyzed for the presence of 13CO 2 using a mass spectrometry machine.
The H. pylori antibody-urea breath test (Ab-UBT) involves testing a person’s expired breath for the presence of 13CO 2 after they have been given an injection containing labeled carbon atoms that are part of the H. pylori antibodies, which then bind to the H. pylori bacteria in the stomach. The patient is asked to exhale into a machine that detects the labeled carbon atoms in their breath. This method is carried out using a similar testing procedure to the 13C-UBT, but rather than the urea solution containing labeled carbon atoms, patients are injected with a solution containing these labeled molecules. The Ab-UBT can detect both H. pylori antibodies and gastric mucosa associated antigens in the respiratory tract, which are produced in response to an H. pylori infection.
The 13C-labeled octanoic acid breath test is similar to the 13C-UBT in that patients are asked to drink a solution containing labeled carbon atoms. However, in this case, these molecules are part of the 13C octanoic acid solution, which is metabolized by the H. pylori bacteria in the stomach to 13CO 2 . Unlike with the other two procedures, this breath test does not involve an injection; therefore, there are no needles involved. It has been suggested that this method might be more popular because it is less invasive than the other two, but more research is needed to confirm this claim.
When taking any of these three breath tests, patients are required to refrain from eating for up to twelve hours before the test or until they feel hunger pangs (whichever comes first). They are also asked not to drink alcohol for twenty-four hours prior and smoke for forty-eight hours prior to the test, as either of these can interfere with accurate test results. Patients are typically required to provide a breath sample at least two times in order for the result to be considered reliable. If a patient fails one of their breath tests, it does not necessarily mean that they do not have an H. pylori infection; rather, they would require more testing in order to obtain a conclusive diagnosis.
This breath test is not as accurate as the blood or stool antigen tests and still requires further research.
When should I get a H. pylori breath test?
A H. pylori breath test should be done if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Digestive problems
- Weight loss
- Black stool
- White stool
- Bloating and belching (burping)
- persistent stomach pain
A person who has any of these symptoms should get a H. Pylori Breath Test done so they can start taking care of themselves and potentially cure their condition before it gets worse.
What happens during the H. pylori breath test?
A doctor will give you a breath test if they think you have an H. pylori infection.
During the test, you’ll drink a certain amount of 13C-urea or 13C octanoic acid solution and then breathe into a machine that can detect carbon dioxide in your breath.
It’s important to note that the breath samples are collected through a mouthpiece that is connected to a machine via a hose.
The machine then detects the amount of 13CO 2 that enters into your body during the time you spend breathing. If there’s a lot of 13CO 2 , it means you have H. pylori in your system.
It might feel strange to be breathing through a tube attached to the machine, but the nurse or doctor is usually there to support you throughout the process.
What does h pylori breath test look like?
It’s difficult to actually see what h pylori breath test looks like because they are done in either a hospital or lab setting that might not allow for photography.
However, you should be able to get an idea of what the h pylori breath test entails if you’ve ever had an exam or procedure done at your doctor’s office.
To give you a clearer idea of what this process is like, here are the following steps that will likely take place during your h pylori breath test procedure:
1. You will be asked to wait in an area where you can sit comfortably while breathing into the machine attached to the breathalyzer tube.
2. A nurse or doctor will come check your tube and watch your breathing pattern. If it’s not connected properly, they’ll fix that for you before starting the test.
3. The doctor will start the breathalyzer’s machine so you can begin breathing into it.
4. You will be required to take at least two deep breaths in order for the result to be accurate.
Take note that every test is slightly different; however, these are some general steps that might occur when taking a h pylori breath test.
What is a Normal H Pylori Breath test result mean?
Normal H. pylori breath results are negative. If you have a normal breath result, it means that there isn’t any trace of 13CO 2 in your exhaled air samples.
However, just because you don’t have H. pylori breath test results, doesn’t mean that you don’t have the infection. If the test comes back negative, your doctor might ask you to take another one in a few weeks’ time.
What is an Abnormal H Pylori Breath test result mean?
If the h pylori breath test results come back as positive, you might have the infection present in your body.
Positive breath tests can indicate that you might have an infection; however, it does not mean that you definitely do.
What is a False Positive H Pylori Breath test result mean?
If you take an h pylori breath test and it comes back as positive, but you don’t actually have H. pylori, then the result is considered a false positive.
Why are h pylori breath tests important?
H pylori breath tests are important because they can be used to diagnose whether or not someone has H. pylori present in their system.
The breath tests can determine if you have an H pylori infection or not, but they cannot actually determine the extent of the infection since bacteria levels are not measured during this procedure.
Doctors might ask you to take another h pylori breath test in a few weeks’ time after prescribing antibiotics because they might not be certain about the diagnosis if your breath test results come back as positive after taking treatment.
Further testing and diagnostic procedures might be necessary to make an accurate H pylori infection diagnosis.
What steps do I need to take before the procedure?
It’s important to note that certain medications and supplements might affect the accuracy of your h pylori breath test results.
If you’ve been prescribed H2 blockers (such as famotidine) or proton pump inhibitors (like omeprazole), you should ask your doctor if it’s okay to take them before your h pylori breath test.
Taking these medications prior to the H pylori breath test will most likely lead to a false positive result, which might affect your doctor’s diagnosis and treatment of the infection.
However, if you need to take these medications before your H pylori breath test, make sure you tell your doctor about it. They can help you better understand the process and might recommend a different option for diagnosis.
What medications affect h pylori breath test results?
Antacids, such as Tums or Rolaids®, commonly contain substances that will interfere with your h pylori breath test result, causing a false positive result.
You should ask your doctor if it’s okay to take any other medications before taking an h pylori breath test, especially if you are required to take antibiotics before the procedure.
Food and drinks:
Your doctor might tell you to avoid eating and drinking for at least one hour before your h pylori breath test.
If the food and drinks enter your stomach, they will most likely contain substances that can interfere with your breath test result.
The more time you wait after eating or drinking prior to taking a breath test, the more accurate your results will be.
After the procedure:
Your doctor might ask you to avoid drinking alcohol and eating for at least 12 hours after taking the h pylori breath test.
However, your doctor might give you different instructions based on their recommendations and your situation. Make sure you follow any special instructions given to you by your doctor.
How long does it take to get results?
The length of time it takes to get your breath test results varies from provider to provider.
You should follow any specific instructions given to you by your doctor or breath testing provider.
Make sure you ask your doctor how long it will take for the laboratory to process your sample and send out a result, especially if you are feeling very ill or have severe H pylori symptoms.
What do the results mean?
The h pylori breath test result will be interpreted based on your specific breath analyzer reading.
For example, a PPM value of 20 ug/L—20 parts per million—means that 20 particles of urease per million particles of air were detected in your breath sample.
The higher the PPM value, the more H pylori bacteria are present in your system and potentially causing your symptoms. A lower PPM value means there is a small number of H pylori bacteria in your system and you might not need immediate treatment for the infection.