Breath Test

While most people who are suspected of having an ulcer will still need an endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis, and exclude more serious problems, breath testing is particularly useful for those who are not fit for this procedure, or for those people who may have had previous treatment for H. pylori. The breath test can confirm its elimination, or re-appearance.

The person undergoing the test just has to swallow a capsule containing a tiny amount of a radioactive substance with some water and, about 10 minutes later, blow into a balloon. The balloon is then sealed and its contents later tested in the laboratory. If H. pylori was present in the stomach, certain changes will have happened to the contents of the capsule which can be identified from the breath sample. The amount of radioactivity in the capsule used for this test is extremely low, being about the same as the amount each one of us is exposed to naturally in 12 hours of everyday life.

Before Taking the Test

In order for the test to work properly, it is important that you remember:

  • Not to eat or drink anything except plain water one hour before the test.
  • Ask your doctor's advice about stopping use of the following medications two weeks before the test: antibiotics of any kind, proton-pump inhibitors. Your doctor may wish to discuss alternative medications that you may use before taking the test.
  • Ask your doctor's advice about being re-tested four weeks after completing therapy to determine its success.


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