[Hydrogen breath test in celiac disease: relationship to histological changes in jejunal mucosa]

Minerva Pediatr. 1994 Dec;46(12):569-74.
[Article in Italian]


Hydrogen concentration in expired breath depends on the fraction of ingested carbohydrates unabsorbed by the small intestinal mucosa which reach the large intestine and are fermented by the colonic flora. The aim of this study is to assess whether in coeliac children breath hydrogen excretion reflects the histological changes in the jejunal mucosa. Hydrogen breath test was performed on 40 children (15 males 25 females) divided into three groups. Group I (controls): 9 children with symptoms suggestive of coeliac disease who, after the appropriate workup, were found to suffer from other gastrointestinal disorders and had abnormal jejunal mucosa. Group II: 14 children who had been diagnosed as coeliacs according to the ESPGAN criteria, were kept on a gluten free diet for a minimum of 6 months and had a normal jejunal mucosa. Group III: 17 coeliac children who ate small quantities of gluten or were on a normal diet. At histology, 10 of them showed a total and 7 a partial atrophy of the jejunal mucosa. Breath hydrogen levels were measured both at baseline and after ingestion of a 2% sorbitol solution in water, at 30 minute intervals for four hours. The peak hydrogen level and the total surface area under the hydrogen excretion curve were also assessed. Coeliac children on a gluten containing diet excrete significantly more H2 than controls or coeliacs on a gluten free diet. Patients with more severe histological lesions had higher peak H2 levels and greater total excretion areas. In coeliac children, sorbitol breath H2 test represents a simple noninvasive technique to detect impaired jejunal function and it should have an important role as a screening test and in assessing dietary compliance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis*
  • Celiac Disease / metabolism
  • Celiac Disease / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glutens / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / analysis*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology*
  • Jejunum / metabolism
  • Jejunum / pathology*
  • Male


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Hydrogen
  • Glutens