Measurement of gastric emptying rate of solids by means of a carbon-labeled octanoic acid breath test

Gastroenterology. 1993 Jun;104(6):1640-7. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(93)90640-x.


Background: The aim of the present study was to develop a breath test for measuring gastric emptying rate of solids that would induce less radiation exposure than radioscintigraphy and would be applicable to field testing.

Methods: A test meal was used in which [14C]-octanoic acid was mixed with egg yolk and prepared as a scrambled egg. The test meal was labeled with a second marker, 99mTc-albumin colloid, and simultaneous radioscintigraphic and breath test measurements were performed in 36 subjects, 16 normal controls, and 20 patients with dyspeptic symptoms. Mathematical analysis of the excretion rate of labeled CO2 resulted in the definition of three parameters, i.e., gastric emptying coefficient, gastric half-emptying time, and lag phase.

Results: There was an excellent correlation between the gastric emptying coefficient and the scintigraphic half-emptying time (r = -0.88); between the half-emptying time determined by the breath test and the scintigraphic half-emptying time (r = 0.89); and between the lag phases determined by scintigraphy and those determined by breath test (r = 0.92). 14C can be replaced by 13C for labeling the octanoic acid used in the breath test.

Conclusions: It is concluded that the octanoic acid breath test is a reliable noninvasive test to measure gastric emptying rate of solids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breath Tests
  • Caprylates* / metabolism
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Caprylates
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • octanoic acid