The H. pylori breath test involves breathing into a balloon-like bag. It's a safe and easy way to detect H. pylori bacteria, diagnosis H. pylori infection, and determine if treatment cured the infection. H. pylori infection is a major cause of peptic ulcer disease. Its presence also increases your risk of gastritis and stomach cancer.
The H. pylori breath test is a simple and safe test. The test is used to:
This test is also called the urea breath test.
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H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) is a bacteria that infects your stomach or duodenum (first part of the small intestine). H. pylori bacteria can increase your risk of developing:
H. pylori is a major cause of peptic ulcer. The bacteria decreases the stomach’s protective mucus. This makes it easier for the stomach to be damaged from digestive acids.
H. pylori infections are very common. About 50% of the world’s population is infected. However, most people never have symptoms.
See your healthcare provider if you have pain in your digestive tract or symptoms of a peptic ulcer including:
During the H. pylori breath test, you will be asked to exhale into a balloon-like bag. The amount of carbon dioxide you exhale into this bag is measured to provide a baseline level for comparison.
Next, you will be asked to drink a small amount of a pleasant lemon-flavored solution. The solution contains a substance called urea. Fifteen minutes after drinking the solution, you will exhale into a second bag. The amount of carbon dioxide you exhale into the second bag is also measured.
H. pylori bacteria (if present) breaks down the urea in the solution you drank, releasing carbon dioxide in the breath you exhale. So if the amount of carbon dioxide in your second sample is higher than the amount in your first sample, you have a positive test for the presence of H. pylori.
Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to any medicines or if you are phenylketonuric. Follow these instructions:
Do not stop taking any other medicine without first talking with your healthcare provider.
A healthcare provider will explain the procedure in detail and answer any questions you might have. The procedure lasts about 20 to 30 minutes.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/20/2020.
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