The electronic nose technology in clinical diagnosis: A systematic review

Porto Biomed J. 2019 Jul 22;4(4):e42. doi: 10.1097/j.pbj.0000000000000042. eCollection 2019 Jul-Aug.


Background: Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are end products of human metabolism (normal and disease-associated) that can be mainly excreted in breath, urine, and feces. Therefore, VOC can be very useful as markers of diseases and helpful for clinicians since its sampling is noninvasive, inexpensive, and painless. Electronic noses, or eNoses, provide an easy and inexpensive way to analyze gas samples. Thus, this device may be used for diagnosis, monitoring or phenotyping diseases according to specific breathprints (breath profile).

Objective: In this review, we summarize data showing the ability of eNose to be used as a noninvasive tool to improve diagnosis in clinical settings.

Methods: A PRISMA-oriented search was performed in PubMed and Cochrane Library. Only studies performed in humans and published since 2000 were included.

Results: A total of 48 original articles, 21 reviews, and 7 other documents were eligible and fully analyzed. The quality assessment of the selected studies was conducted according to the Standards for Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy. Airway obstructive diseases were the most studied and Cyranose 320 was the most used eNose.

Conclusions: Several case-control studies were performed to test this technology in diverse fields. More than a half of the selected studies showed good accuracy. However, there are some limitations regarding sampling methodology, analysis, reproducibility, and external validation that need to be standardized. Additionally, it is urgent to test this technology in intend-to-treat populations. Thus, it is possible to think in the contribution of VOC analysis by eNoses in a clinical setting.

Keywords: breathomics; diagnosis; electronic nose; volatile organic compounds.

Publication types

  • Review