Liver Impairment-The Potential Application of Volatile Organic Compounds in Hepatology

Metabolites. 2021 Sep 11;11(9):618. doi: 10.3390/metabo11090618.


Liver diseases are currently diagnosed through liver biopsy. Its invasiveness, costs, and relatively low diagnostic accuracy require new techniques to be sought. Analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in human bio-matrices has received a lot of attention. It is known that a musty odour characterises liver impairment, resulting in the elucidation of volatile chemicals in the breath and other body fluids such as urine and stool, which may serve as biomarkers of a disease. Aims: This study aims to review all the studies found in the literature regarding VOCs in liver diseases, and to summarise all the identified compounds that could be used as diagnostic or prognostic biomarkers. The literature search was conducted on ScienceDirect and PubMed, and each eligible publication was qualitatively assessed by two independent evaluators using the SANRA critical appraisal tool. Results: In the search, 58 publications were found, and 28 were kept for inclusion: 23 were about VOCs in the breath, one in the bile, three in urine, and one in faeces. Each publication was graded from zero to ten. A graphical summary of the metabolic pathways showcasing the known liver disease-related VOCs and suggestions on how VOC analysis on liver impairment could be applied in clinical practice are given.

Keywords: VOCs; bile; breath; faeces; liver diseases; noninvasive; urine.

Publication types

  • Review