Urea Breath Test
If you have an H pylori infection or an ulcer, odds are you will at some point get a urea breath test to check for H pylori.
The urea breath test is nothing to be worried about as it is a fairly simple test and is quite accurate. It is a lot more accurate than a blood test or stool test and a lot more pleasant than and endoscopy and subsequent biopsy.
The Urea Breath Test Procedure
The H pylori breath test is quite simple. Patients are asked to drink a solution containing urea and then breath into a specialized device.
The idea is simple: urea is normally a waste product created during the body’s metobolic processes, of which we have no need to ingest. However, H pylori enjoys metabolizing this substance and when it does it gives off ammonia gas.
Humans normally do not exhale ammonia. By using a meter to check for ammonia after drinking urea, a technician is able to quite accurately test for the presence of H pylori.
Why Perform an H Pylori Breath Test
The urea breath test is very important especially if you have stomach ulcer symptoms. If your ulcer is caused by H pylori, then you will have a hard time treating it without taking care of the infection.
An H pylori test is necessary to check to see if the treatment plan you are following is effective. Since getting a blood test (or another type of test) done regularly is not very convenient, the urea breath test has become much more commonplace.
When to expect an Urea Breath Test
If you have a suspected or diagnosed ulcer, odds are you will be referred by your doctor to take this test. Given the need for specialized equipment, this is not a test you can do on your own or perform with an “at home test kit”.
Mail-off lab test are generally stool or blood tests, and these are not nearly as accurate as the H pylori breath test is. As a result, you will want to go through standard medical channels to get an urea breath test done.
Do I Need to Fast For an Urea Breath Test?
To quickly answer a common question, the common answer is no, but you should call ahead and ask. Most modern tests do not require fasting, but if your practitioner is using an older test, a 4-6 hour fast may be required. Be sure to clear this up before you go into testing.
Both fasting and non-fasting tests are very, very accurate, but different urea breath tests may use different chemical markers, some may require fasting but most do not. Just be sure to call up ahead of time if you are unsure.
Getting Regular Testing
The key thing about testing for H pylori is to get regular checks. Almost everyone with an ulcer will have H pylori, but not everyone will respond to treatment.
Generally, anywhere from 4-12 weeks after cessation of medication, a follow-up H pylori breath test is done to make sure that the bacteria has completely been eradicated. H pylori has a tendency to become chronic given its increasing resistance to antibiotics. Chronic H pylori infection is linked to stomach cancer, making follow-up testing very important in those who have ulcers.
This is the true superiority of an urea breath test over a blood or stool test; antibodies may linger in the blood long after H pylori has been eradicated whereas the H pylori breath test is a lot more accurate.
While no test is 100% accurate, the urea breath test is easily the most convenient test for the necessary regular testing recommended in H pylori cases.