Breath test | Diseases and conditions: Medical tests.

What is the Breath test

The breath test is a medical test that is done to patients suspected of suffering from an infection by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. This bacterium is found in the walls of the stomach, and survive in an acid environment thanks to an enzyme called urease. This enzyme manages to convert urea into commodities that react with acid and maintain a microenvironment with a pH that is suitable for the survival of the H. pylori.
The implication of this bacterium in various gastric pathologies was not discovered until the last years of the 20th century, so treatments and the available evidence did not exist until a few years ago. Thanks to its discovery has been to treat serious diseases as ulcer of stomach with just a simple medical treatment with antibiotics, thus avoiding complex surgeries.
One of the methods to check if the H. pylori colonizes the stomach or not is the breath test. It consists of taking a certain dose of urea in capsule form, and after a specific time, measure urea exhaled breath. The amount of exhaled urea directly depends on the presence of H. pylori in the stomach.
There are other tests to diagnose infection by H. pylori. Some of them are carrying out serology on an analysis of blood, stool examination or biopsy by endoscopy. However, the breath test is the most effective and the easiest to perform, both the doctor and patient.

When a breath test is done

It is recommended to perform a breath test to everyone where it is necessary to find out if they have an infection by Helicobacter pylori to treat their symptoms, or to prevent their occurrence in the future. The most common situations in which testing is used are as follows:
Active duodenal ulcer or gastric ulcer: this type of ulcers are injured in the wall of the stomach or duodenum that bleed and can drill into the digestive tube. There are many factors that favor it (tobacco, alcohol, anti-inflammatory, etc), but are directly related to the presence of Helicobacter pylori many of them. If the bacteria is detected it can be eliminated with a medical treatment and that solves the ulcer, which heals by itself.
Last gastric or duodenal ulcer: as we have said previously, the discovery of the relationship between the Helicobacter pylori and digestive diseases did not happen until a few years ago. It is not uncommon to find people who had an ulcer and received a different treatment (surgery in many cases). It is recommended to test these people and to eliminate the bacteria, if found; thus diminishes the risk of relapses of the disease.
After receiving treatment against H. pylori: when a person is detected Helicobacter pylori should be treated to eradicate it for awhile. Then you should be back to the breath test to check that the bacterium has been removed. If not, need to try with other antibiotics because it can that the first were not effective.
Dyspepsia: named to all symptoms of poor digestion (heaviness in the stomach, belching, heartburn and reflux, etc). Often they are caused by gastritis, or alterations in the secretion of gastric juices. The Elimination of the Helicobacter pylori may improve symptoms.
Prior to treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs: If a person takes some anti-inflammatory in a timely manner (such as ibuprofen or others) is not necessary to perform any previous test. But if treatment with anti-inflammatory steroids will not be very long breath test must be performed to detect the bacteria and eliminate it; so will decrease the risk of ulcers.

A breath test preparation

If they are going to perform a breath test and you want to go well prepared the day of the appointment, these are the issues that you must provide for:
Duration: usually lasts half an hour since you arrive to the clinic until you leave. Time that must wait since tomas urea until it is measured in breath are 10 minutes.
Admission: admission is never needed. It is a test that can be done at a time.
Is necessary to be accompanied?: not, is a painless and not invasive, so you can only attend the clinic and return in the same way.
Drugs: don't need to take any prior medication. You should tell the doctor all medications that you are taking at that time. Two weeks prior to the test you can not take any antibiotic, drugs that contain bismuth, or inhibitors of pump of protons (like the pantoprazole or omeprazole).
Food: you have to go to the test in fasting. If it is done in the afternoon, you can not have eaten in the 6-8 hours before.
Clothes: you can wear normal street clothes, does not affect the test.
Documents: must not carry any type of document, only your personal identification and your health insurance card, which is always best to take with you when you go to medical testing.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: is a test that can be performed in either of the two situations without problem, although you must tell your doctor that you have knowledge of this.
Contraindications: no contraindication.

How a breath test

When you get to the consultation of the gastroenterologist will make you some general questions about your state of health: important diseases, risk factors, lifestyle, place of work, etc. You will also ask for digestive symptoms such as heartburn, the stomach pain, vomiting, bleeding... After perform you a general physical examination and request the breath test if it considers that it is worth making it.
The day of the test you will have to come to the fasting. Usually take advantage of this day to get blood and make you new analysis. You will then be asked to take a glass of water with a small capsule of urea. The amount of urea that tomas is minimal, and is also a substance that is located in your body in a natural way, so you should not worry. The urea will be marked with carbon 14, so when it reacts with enzymes of the Helicobacter pylori it will be released and can be measured in the breath.
When you've taken the pill you have to wait seated and quiet. After 10 minutes you will be asked you exhales breath through a small tube. It is a test similar to the test of breathalyzer that are made when you drive a car. Your breath is collected in a balloon and it is analyzed to quantify the amount of carbon-14 that are dissolved in the air. The analysis can be immediate or be later, depends on the laboratory and the technology available.

Complications of breath test

Complications of the breath test are not known. It is a completely safe test that does not entail risks for persons who are subjected to it. A possible complication associated with testing is offering a falsely negative, this often happens when taken antibiotics or drugs not permitted prior to the test. Thus, an infected person will be undetected and not receive treatment. Falsely positive results are less frequent.

The breath test results

The breath test results They should be interpreted by a gastroenterologist that you assess measures to take if it is a positive result. When it is positive the doctor will prescribe you three drugs that eliminate the Helicobacter pylori stomach. These drugs are accompanied by two antibiotics omeprazole (usually amoxicilna and clarithromycin, but there are many more options). After a few weeks you will again repeat the test to check that all is well.
When the result is negative it is possible to have the bacteria colonizing the stomach. The doctor not may prescribe you any medicine against this microorganism because you would not serve anything. If they have done you the test because you had symptoms of indigestion the doctor will pose different tests that try to discover why show these symptoms.
Something to keep in mind is test may give a false negative result and really does have the Helicobacter pylori in your stomach. If your doctor thinks that's your case can repeat the test once, and this time must take extra care prior (such as medication and fasting). This situation is quite uncommon, because the test gives very successful results.
Published for educational purposes
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