Test meals are invariably used in the 13C-urea breath test (UBT) but their effect on the intragastric distribution and gastric residence time of urea given in the test is unknown. The site of Helicobacter pylori urease measured in the test is unknown and whether the test measures total or regional gastric urease is uncertain. This study reports the results of paired UBTs with simultaneous gastric distribution studies, one with and one without a fatty test meal, two weeks apart on seven H pylori infected subjects. The test meal did not affect UBT results at 10 minutes, but increased values at 30 minutes and thereafter. The amount of scintigraphic label in the antrum at 10 minutes was also unaffected by the meal but increased at 30 minutes and thereafter, whereas the amount in the body/fundus was greatly increased both at 10 minutes and throughout the test. There was considerable variation in intragastric distribution of urea between subjects, both with and without the test meal. This study shows that a test meal profoundly affects intragastric distribution of urea solution in the UBT, and increases UBT values at 30 minutes and later. Variability between subjects, however, means that accurate measurement of total or regional gastric urease is probably unrealistic.
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