Dynamic profiles of volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath as determined by a coupled PTR-MS/GC-MS study

Physiol Meas. 2010 Sep;31(9):1169-84. doi: 10.1088/0967-3334/31/9/008. Epub 2010 Jul 28.


In this phenomenological study we focus on dynamic measurements of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath under exercise conditions. An experimental setup efficiently combining breath-by-breath analyses using proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) with data reflecting the behaviour of major hemodynamic and respiratory parameters is presented. Furthermore, a methodology for complementing continuous VOC profiles obtained by PTR-MS with simultaneous SPME/GC-MS measurements is outlined. These investigations aim at evaluating the impact of breathing patterns, cardiac output or blood pressure on the observed breath concentration and allow for the detection and identification of several VOCs revealing characteristic rest-to-work transitions in response to variations in ventilation or perfusion. Examples of such compounds include isoprene, methyl acetate, butane, DMS and 2-pentanone. In particular, both isoprene and methyl acetate exhibit a drastic rise in concentration shortly after the onset of exercise, usually by a factor of about 3-5 within approximately 1 min of pedalling. These specific VOCs might also be interpreted as potentially sensitive indicators for fluctuations of blood or respiratory flow and can therefore be viewed as candidate compounds for future assessments of hemodynamics, pulmonary function and gas exchange patterns via observed VOC behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetone / analysis
  • Acetone / chemistry
  • Acetone / isolation & purification
  • Adult
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Butadienes / analysis
  • Butadienes / chemistry
  • Butadienes / isolation & purification
  • Exhalation*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Hemiterpenes / analysis
  • Hemiterpenes / chemistry
  • Hemiterpenes / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Noble Gases / metabolism
  • Organic Chemicals / analysis*
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry*
  • Organic Chemicals / isolation & purification
  • Pentanes / analysis
  • Pentanes / chemistry
  • Pentanes / isolation & purification
  • Protons*
  • Solid Phase Microextraction
  • Ventilation-Perfusion Ratio
  • Volatilization
  • Young Adult


  • Butadienes
  • Hemiterpenes
  • Noble Gases
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Pentanes
  • Protons
  • isoprene
  • Acetone