Give Online: Help shape patient care for generations to come.
Cleveland Clinic Logo

Diagnostics & Testing

Breath Test For Helicobacter Pylori - Diagnostic Tests

What is the H. pylori breath test?

The H. pylori breath test is a simple and safe test used to detect an active H. pylori infection.

What is H. pylori?

Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori) is a bacteria that can infect the stomach or duodenum (first part of the small intestine). If left untreated, H. pylori bacteria can cause gastritis (an inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining) and duodenal or gastric ulcers. In addition, infection with H. pylori increases the risk of other diseases and is also a risk factor for gastric cancer.

Accurate detection of H. pylori is the first step toward curing stomach and intestinal ulcers, and preventing the development of more serious gastrointestinal problems.

What happens during the test?

During the test, you will be asked to exhale into a balloon-like bag. The air you breathe into this bag is tested to provide a basis for comparison (called a baseline sample). You will then be asked to drink a small amount of a pleasant lemon-flavored solution. Fifteen minutes after drinking the solution, a second breath sample will be taken. The air you breathe into this bag is tested for an increase in carbon dioxide.

What steps do I take before the procedure?

Special conditions

Be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medicines or if you are phenylketonuric.

  • Four weeks before the test do not take any antibiotics or Pepto Bismol® (oral bismuth subsalicylate).
  • Two weeks before the test do not take any prescription or over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec® [omeprazole], Prevacid® [lansoprazole], Protonix® [pantoprazole], AcipHex® [rabeprazole] or Nexium® [esomeprazole], Dexilant®  [dexlansoprazole]).

Please note: Do not stop taking any other medicine without first talking with your doctor.

Eating and drinking

One hour before the test, do not eat or drink anything (including water).

On the day of the procedure

A health care provider will explain the procedure in detail and answer any questions you might have. The procedure lasts about 20 to 30 minutes.

After the procedure
  • Your breath samples are sent to the laboratory where they are tested.
  • You may resume your normal activities.
  • No restrictions.
Test results
  • Your doctor will notify you as soon as your laboratory test results are available.
  • If the test indicates that you do have a H. pylori infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.
  • One month after antibiotic treatment your doctor might order a repeat breath test to make sure the infection has been cured.

© Copyright 1995-2012 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 3/20/2016...#5217