14C-urea breath test is safe for pediatric patients

Nucl Med Commun. 2010 Sep;31(9):830-5. doi: 10.1097/MNM.0b013e32833c3647.


Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, quite prevalent in the developing countries, is considered to be one of the causative factors for various gastric pathologies and other nongastric diseases. It is believed that H. pylori infection is almost always acquired in early childhood and persists throughout life unless specific treatment is given. The (13/14)C-urea breath test (UBT) is now considered to be a 'gold standard' technique for the detection of H. pylori infection. However, because of the lack of facilities and high cost, the preferred nonradioactive ¹³C-UBT cannot be performed on pediatric patients in developing countries, whereas the radioactive ¹⁴C-UBT is not used on children because of the fear of radiation exposure. When using 37 kBq (1 μCi) of ¹⁴C-urea for the ¹⁴C-UBT, the patient is not exposed to more radiation than is acquired from the natural environment in one day, as almost all the ingested radioactivity is excreted from the body (urine and breath) within 72-120 h. This article reviews the importance of the ¹⁴C-UBT for the detection of H. pylori and justifies the radiation safety aspects of its use in children without any fear of 'radiation phobia' where the facility for ¹³C-UBT is lacking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Carbon Radioisotopes / administration & dosage
  • Carbon Radioisotopes / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Helicobacter Infections / diagnosis
  • Helicobacter Infections / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Safety*
  • Urea / analysis*


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Urea