Biokinetics and radiation doses for carbon-14 urea in adults and children undergoing the Helicobacter pylori breath test

Eur J Nucl Med. 1999 Jun;26(6):573-80. doi: 10.1007/s002590050424.


The long-term biokinetics and dosimetry of carbon-14 were studied in nine adults and eight children undergoing carbon-14 urea breath test for Helicobacter pylori (HP) infection. The elimination of 14C via exhaled air and urine was measured with the liquid scintillation counting technique and with accelerator mass spectrometry. After the subjects had been given 110 kBq 14C-urea (children: 55 kBq) orally, samples of exhaled air were taken up to 180 days after administration and samples of urine were collected up to 40 days. Sixteen of the subjects were found to be HP-negative. In these subjects a total of 91.1%+/-3.9% (mean of adults and children +/- standard error of the mean) of the administered 14C activity was recovered. The majority of the administered activity, 88.3%+/-6.2% in adults and 87.7%+/-5.0% in children, was excreted via the urine within 72 h after administration. A smaller fraction was exhaled. In adults 4.6%+/-0.6% of the activity was exhaled within 20 days and in children 2.6%+/-0.3%. Uncertainties in the biokinetic results are mainly due to assumptions concerning endogenous CO2 production and urinary excretion rate and are estimated to be less than 30%. The absorbed dose to various organs and the effective dose were calculated using the ICRP model for urea and CO2. The urinary bladder received the highest absorbed dose: in adults, 0.15+/-0.01 mGy/MBq and in children of various ages (7-14 years), 0.14-0.36 mGy/MBq. The findings indicate that an investigation with 14C-urea gives an effective dose to adults of 2.1+/-0.1 microSv (for 110 kBq) and to children of 0.9-2.5 microSv (for 55 kBq). From a radiation protection point of view, there is thus no reason for restrictions on even repeated screening investigations with 14C-urea in whole families, including children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breath Tests*
  • Carbon Radioisotopes / pharmacokinetics
  • Child
  • Helicobacter Infections / diagnosis*
  • Helicobacter pylori / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Protection
  • Urea / pharmacokinetics


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Urea