Determination of inflammatory bowel disease activity by breath pentane analysis

Dis Colon Rectum. 1993 Jun;36(6):597-601. doi: 10.1007/BF02049868.


Purpose: Quantitative determination of breath pentane, an alkane generated by peroxidation of cellular fatty acids, has been used as a noninvasive determinant of inflammation. Herein we report the first examination of the relationship between breath pentane and intestinal inflammation in humans.

Methods: Patients (N = 33), either with a known history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with symptoms of relapse or with no known history of but having symptoms consistent with IBD, were evaluated with indium-111-labeled leukocyte imaging to assess the presence of active inflammation. At the time of the indium scan, the exhaled breath of the patients was obtained via a collecting tube. Gas chromatography was used to quantify the pentane content, and these values were compared with graded indium scans.

Results: The range of breath pentane found in our population (36 determinations in 33 patients) was from 0 to 38.4 nmol/l of exhaled air. For patients with negative scans, the mean pentane was 2.1 nmol/l, for intermediate scans 3.1, for positive scans 4.3, and for nonintestinal nuclide imaging 5.5 [P = 0.005 by analysis of variance (ANOVA)].

Conclusions: We have previously demonstrated the correlation of breath pentane with gross and histologic evidence of intestinal inflammation in a rodent colitis model. This current study also demonstrates that pentane analysis can be correlated with inflammatory bowel disease activity in humans.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breath Tests*
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Female
  • Granulocytes
  • Humans
  • Indium Radioisotopes
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pentanes / analysis*
  • Radionuclide Imaging


  • Indium Radioisotopes
  • Pentanes
  • pentane