Validity of a modified 13C-urea breath test for pre- and posttreatment diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori infection in the routine clinical setting

Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Aug;94(8):2100-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.01284.x.


Objective: Citric acid meets the criteria of an optimal test drink for the 13C-urea breath test (13C-UBT) because it permits rapid, high level recovery of the 13C administered. In a previous study we reported that administration of 13C-urea dissolved in a citric acid solution provides results similar to those obtained with standard administration of the substrate 10 min after the test drink. The aim of this study was to evaluate the accuracy of this modified 13C-UBT for both primary and posttreatment diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection in a large patient population in clinical practice.

Methods: The 13C-UBT was performed in 553 patients with dyspeptic symptoms by giving them 75 mg of 13C-urea either 10 min after administration of 200 ml of a test drink comprising 0.1 mol/L citric acid solution (protocol 1, n = 320) or dissolved in the same amount of this test drink (protocol 2, n = 233). All patients underwent an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and the H. pylori-status was assessed by histology, rapid urease test, and culture. Sixty patients with proven H. pylori infection were reinvestigated by both endoscopy and 13C-UBT (protocol 2) 4 wk after completing eradication therapy.

Results: The accuracy of the two test protocols in the pretreatment diagnosis of H. pylori infection (95.6% and 96.6%), as well as of the modified 13C-UBT in the posttreatment evaluation of the infection (98.3%) was similar. More meaningful are the high PPV (>96%) and NPV (>93%) of the 13C-UBT under pre- and posttreatment conditions.

Conclusions: The administration of 13C-urea dissolved in a citric acid solution simplifies the 13C-UBT, while preserving the high accuracy in the diagnosis of H. pylori infection. This modified 13C-UBT has equal accuracy in the pre- and the posttreatment situations.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breath Tests*
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Citric Acid
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastritis / diagnosis*
  • Gastritis / drug therapy
  • Gastroscopy
  • Helicobacter Infections / diagnosis*
  • Helicobacter Infections / drug therapy
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Urea / analysis*


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Citric Acid
  • Urea