Objective: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common complications of childhood obesity. Our objective was to investigate the association of breath volatile organic compounds with the diagnosis of NAFLD in children.
Methods: Patients were screened with an ultrasound of the abdomen to evaluate for NAFLD. Exhaled breath was collected and analyzed per protocol using selective ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS).
Results: Sixty patients were included in the study (37 with NAFLD and 23 with normal liver). All children were overweight or obese. The mean age was 14.1±2.8 years and 50% were female. A comparison of the SIFT-MS results of patients with NAFLD with those with normal liver on ultrasound revealed differences in concentration of more than 15 compounds. A panel of four volatile organic compounds can identify the presence of NAFLD with good accuracy (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.913 in the training set and 0.763 in the validation set). Breath isoprene, acetone, trimethylamine, acetaldehyde, and pentane were significantly higher in the NAFLD group compared with normal liver group (14.7 ppb vs. 8.9 for isoprene; 71.7 vs. 36.9 for acetone; 5.0 vs. 3.2 for trimethylamine; 35.1 vs. 26.0 for acetaldehyde; and 13.3 vs. 8.8 for pentane, P<0.05 for all).
Conclusion: Exhaled breath analysis is a promising noninvasive method to detect fatty liver in children. Isoprene, acetone, trimethylamine, acetaldehyde, and pentane are novel biomarkers that may help to gain insight into pathophysiological processes leading to the development of NAFLD.