Published online Aug 15, 2016. doi: 10.4291/wjgp.v7.i3.256
Peer-review started: March 7, 2016
First decision: April 15, 2016
Revised: April 22, 2016
Accepted: May 10, 2016
Article in press: May 11, 2016
Published online: August 15, 2016
In the field of gastroenterology, breath tests (BTs) are used intermittently as diagnostic tools that allow indirect, non-invasive and relatively less cumbersome evaluation of several disorders by simply quantifying the appearance in exhaled breath of a metabolite of a specific substrate administered. The aim of this review is to have an insight into the principles, methods of analysis and performance parameters of various hydrogen, methane and carbon BTs which are available for diagnosing gastrointestinal disorders such as Helicobacter pylori infection, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and carbohydrate malabsorption. Evaluation of gastric emptying is routinely performed by scintigraphy which is however, difficult to perform and not suitable for children and pregnant women, this review has abridged the 13C-octanoic acid test in comparison to scintigraphy and has emphasized on its working protocol and challenges. A new development such as electronic nose test is also highlighted. Moreover we have also explored the limitations and constraints restraining the wide use of these BT. We conclude that breath testing has an enormous potential to be used as a diagnostic modality. In addition it offers distinct advantages over the traditional invasive methods commonly employed.
Core tip: The aim of this review is to have an insight into the principles, methods of analysis and performance parameters of various breath tests available for diagnosing gastrointestinal disorders. Furthermore we have also explored the limitations and constraints restricting the wide use of these tests.