Journal Article

Dynamic carbon 13 breath tests for the study of liver function and gastric emptying

Leonilde Bonfrate, Ignazio Grattagliano, Giuseppe Palasciano and Piero Portincasa

in Gastroenterology Report

Volume 3, issue 1, pages 12-21
Published in print February 2015 |
Published online October 2014 | e-ISSN: 2052-0034 | DOI:

Show Summary Details


In gastroenterological practice, breath tests (BTs) are diagnostic tools used for indirect, non-invasive assessment of several pathophysiological metabolic processes, by monitoring the appearance in breath of a metabolite of a specific substrate. Labelled substrates originally employed radioactive carbon 14 (14C) and, more recently, the stable carbon 13 isotope (13C) has been introduced to label specific substrates. The ingested 13C-substrate is metabolized, and exhaled 13CO2 is measured by mass spectrometry or infrared spectroscopy. Some 13C-BTs evaluate specific (microsomal, cytosolic, and mitochondrial) hepatic metabolic pathways and can be employed in liver diseases (i.e. simple liver steatosis, non-alcoholic steato-hepatitis, liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, drug and alcohol effects).

Another field of clinical application for 13C-BTs is the assessment of gastric emptying kinetics in response to liquids (13C-acetate) or solids (13C-octanoic acid in egg yolk or in a pre-packed muffin or the 13C-Spirulina platensis given with a meal or a biscuit). Studies have shown that 13C-BTs, used for gastric emptying studies, yield results that are comparable to scintigraphy and can be useful in detecting either delayed- (gastroparesis) or accelerated gastric emptying or changes of gastric kinetics due to pharmacological effects. Thus, 13C-BTs represent an indirect, cost-effective and easy method of evaluating dynamic liver function and gastric kinetics in health and disease, and several other potential applications are being studied.

Keywords: breath tests; stable isotope; hepatic metabolism; gastric motility; scintigraphy

Journal Article.  5796 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Gastroenterology

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or login to access all content.