Helicobacter Pylori Breath Test

A Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) breath test is a common, safe method of testing for the infection. This bacteria grows in the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine, often causing no problems or symptoms. Yet, in some cases, H. pylori may lead to inflammation of the stomach lining or ulcers as well as increase the risk of developing stomach cancer. While H. pylori itself has no identifiable symptoms, the ulcers and/or gastritis that it may cause do produce discomfort as well as symptoms that may include nausea, indigestion, bloating, fullness and abdominal pain.

The H. pylori breath test requires the patient to exhale into a bag similar to a balloon. The bag is then sealed and available for testing to provide an initial, or baseline, sample. The patient next must consume a small quantity of liquid or a capsule containing a special tagged substance and, 15 minutes later, will exhale into another bag for a second sample. This is compared to the first sampling to determine whether a specific hydrocarbon has been produced that forms when contact is made with H. pylori, signaling an infection.

Patients may not eat or drink anything for one hour prior to the test. The testing process typically takes 20 to 30 minutes. The samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis and the results are provided to your physician as soon as they are available. If the results are positive for H. pylori infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat it. A follow-up appointment may be recommended approximately one month later to repeat the H. pylori breath test in order to ensure that the infection is completely gone.

This test is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast feeding. In addition, it is important the doctor be informed before taking the H. pylori test of any medications or antacids that may have been used because some types may complicate the test's results.

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