13C-urea breath test in the management of Helicobacterpylori infection

Dig Liver Dis. 2005 Dec;37(12):899-906. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2005.09.006. Epub 2005 Nov 8.


The urea breath test is a noninvasive and very accurate test for the diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori infection. However, false negative urea breath test results have been reported to occur in a considerable percentage of the individuals taking proton pump inhibitors; the interval needed to be completely confident that false negative tests had been excluded has varied among the different studies between 6 and 14 days. The impact of H(2)-receptor antagonists on the accuracy of urea breath test remains controversial, although, in contrast with proton pump inhibitors, the data suggest that H(2)-receptor antagonists, for the most part, have little effect on the result of the urea breath test. The urea breath test does not represent a suitable tool for estimating the density of H. pylori colonization. The only quantitative information to be obtained from the urea breath test is that the higher the delta value, the lower the probability of a false-positive urea breath test result. Although some authors have demonstrated a correlation between urea breath test values and histological lesions of the gastric mucosa, the practical utility of this relationship remains unclear. It has been suggested that the pretreatment urea breath test has the potential to identify patients who require modification of the standard therapeutic regimen (for example, prolonging the duration of treatment or increasing the pharmacological dose when bacterial density is high), but other studies could not confirm this relationship. Some studies have shown that the urea breath test is less accurate in patients who have undergone partial gastrectomy. Finally, in contrast with biopsy-based methods, which are responsible for a high number of false-negative results when used to diagnose H. pylori infection in patients with upper gastrointestinal bleeding, urea breath test seems not to be negatively influenced by the presence of this complication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Gastrectomy
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage
  • Helicobacter Infections / diagnosis*
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Histamine Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Stomach Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Tract
  • Urea / metabolism*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Histamine Antagonists
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors
  • Urea