A stable isotope breath test with a standard meal for abnormal gastric emptying of solids in the clinic and in research

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Jun;6(6):635-643.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2008.01.009. Epub 2008 Apr 14.


Background & aims: The aim of this study was to validate a [13C]-Spirulina platensis gastric emptying (GE) breath test (GEBT) with a standardized meal.

Methods: Thirty-eight healthy volunteers and 129 patients with clinically suspected delayed GE underwent measurements at 45, 90, 120, 150, 180, and 240 minutes after a 238 kcal meal labeled test with 100 mg [13C]-S platensis and 0.5 mCi 99mTc. We established normal ranges for scintigraphy with this test meal, intraindividual and interindividual coefficients of variation (COVs), and the ability of the [13C] GEBT breath percent dose excreted *1000 values to predict scintigraphic half-life and to categorize GE as delayed, normal, or accelerated.

Results: In health, the 10th and 90th percentiles of half-life for scintigraphic GE with this meal were 52 and 86 minutes; intraindividual COVs for scintigraphy and the GEBT were, respectively, 31% and 27% at 45 minutes, 17% and 21% at 90 minutes, 13% and 16% at 120 minutes, 10% and 13% at 150 minutes, and 8% and 12% at 180 minutes. Interindividual COVs at each time for the [13C] GEBT and scintigraphy were typically approximately 1%-4% lower than intraindividual COVs. Individual breath samples at 45, 150, and 180 minutes predicted GE category; at 80% specificity, 45- and 180-minute samples combined were 93% sensitive to identify accelerated GE, and 150- and 180-minute combined were 89% sensitive for delayed GE.

Conclusions: [13C]-S platensis GEBT is as reproducible as scintigraphy; imprecision with both tests reflects physiologic variation. With 4 breath samples, this method with an off-the-shelf meal is valid to assess GE in clinic and in research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Area Under Curve
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Carbon Isotopes* / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying / physiology*
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spirulina / metabolism
  • Stomach Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Technetium / administration & dosage
  • Time Factors


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Technetium