Measuring gastric emptying of semisolids in children using the 13C-acetate breath test: a validation study

Dig Liver Dis. 2004 Apr;36(4):260-4. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2003.12.011.


Background and aim: Radioscintigraphy is the gold standard for evaluation of gastric emptying in children, but requires exposure to ionising radiation. Therefore, the aim of the study was to validate the non-radioactive 13C-acetate breath test in children in comparison to radioscintigraphy as reference method.

Patients: Twenty-nine children with dyspeptic or respiratory symptoms were tested for gastric emptying disorders simultaneously performing the 13C-acetate breath test and radioscintigraphy.

Methods: A semisolid oatmeal was doubly labelled with 150 mg 13C-acetate and 50 MBq 99mTechnetium. Breath samples were collected every 5-10 min for 4 h. After mass spectrometrical 13C-analysis, curve fitting of the 13C-cumulative recovery to the modified power exponential function Y = m(1 - e(-kt) calculated the half emptying times of the breath test (t 1/2 (breath)). Scintigraphic image acquisition began immediately after the ingestion of the 99mTechnetium-labelled testmeal at a rate of one frame every 60 s for 1 h.

Results: Six children showed delayed gastric emptying in scintigraphy (t 1/2(scinti) > 60 min). All these children had prolonged half emptying times t 1/2 (breath) in the 13C-acetate breath test. Using a cut-off t 1/2(breath) > 90 min, the 13C-acetate breath test had a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 85%. Scintigraphic and breath test half emptying times were linearly correlated (Y = 0.80x + 47.68, r = 0.76, P < 0.00001).

Conclusions: The 13C-acetate breath test proves to be a reliable, non-radioactive alternative for measuring gastric emptying in children.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetates*
  • Adolescent
  • Breath Tests / instrumentation*
  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Radionuclide Imaging / methods
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Acetates