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H Pylori Urea Breath Test - Preparation and Procedure

Submitted on March 27, 2012

H Pylori Urea Breath Testing

Helicobacter pylori is a Gram-negative, microaerophilic bacterium. It commonly inhabits different areas of the stomach and duodenum and is known to cause peptic ulcer and chronic gastritis. H. pylori is also a risk factor for diseases such as gastric cancer and the onset of malignant stomach lymphoma. However, if accurately detected, the infection caused by this bacterium can be treated with a success rate of 90 percent in a matter of 10 to 14 days. The route of transmission for Helicobacter pylori remains unknown. There are a number of tests that can detect the presence of this bacterium in the stomach such as, blood antibody test, upper gastrointestinal tract biopsy, stool antigen test, and carbon urea breath test also known as the helicobactor pylori urea breath test. In recent years the pylori urea breath test has become the preferred method of detection.

Reason Why It is Conducted

The urea breath test for h pylori is used to detect the presence of the helicobactor pylori bacterium and thereby diagnose peptic ulcer or chronic active gastritis. This test is also used to monitor and document the cure of patients, who were infected by the H. pylori bacterium. In recent times, the pylori urea breath test has gained popularity because of the number of advantages that it has over the other methods of testing such as a 13c urea breath test, and can be safely administered to women and children, it can be repeated a number of times because it uses a non-radioactive isotope, the test is 98 percent accurate, it is non-invasive and cost-effective.


There are two types of urea breath tests for h pylori, the C14 urea breath test and an improved version of the test known as the C13 urea breath test. Both tests work on the principal that helicobactor pylori is able to break down urea into carbon dioxide and ammonia. This carbon dioxide is absorbed by the blood and expelled from the lungs. Thus breath samples are taken from the patient before and after ingesting either urea labeled with an uncommon isotope. Depending on which test is conducted, this isotope could be either radioactive carbon-14 or non-radioactive carbon-13. The before and after values of the breath samples are measured to determine infection.


The patient has to fast for 4 to 6 hours before the test depending on whether he or she is undergoing a C14 or C13 breath test. Antibiotics need to be discontinued before the test.