Article Text

Download PDFPDF
The Helicobacter pylori breath test: a surrogate marker for peptic ulcer disease in dyspeptic patients.
  1. K E McColl,
  2. A el-Nujumi,
  3. L Murray,
  4. E el-Omar,
  5. D Gillen,
  6. A Dickson,
  7. A Kelman,
  8. T E Hilditch
  1. University Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Western Infirmary, Glasgow.


    BACKGROUND: There is interest in noninvasive H pylori testing as a means of predicting diagnosis and determining management in dyspeptic patients. AIMS: To assess the value of the 14C urea breath test as a predictor of peptic ulcer disease in patients presenting with dyspepsia. PATIENTS AND METHODS: 327 consecutive patients referred for investigation of dyspepsia had a 14C urea breath test performed before endoscopy. Patients were not included if they had previously confirmed ulcer disease, previous gastric surgery, or were taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. RESULTS: Of the 182 patients with a positive 14C urea breath test, duodenal and/or gastric ulcers were present in 45% and erosive duodenitis in a further 2%. Oesophagitis was present in 12% of the breath test positive patients with two thirds of the oesophagitis patients having co-existent ulcer disease. The prevalence of ulcer disease in the H pylori positive dyspeptic patients was independently related to smoking and previous investigation status. If previously uninvestigated, the prevalence of ulcers was 67% in smokers and 46% in non-smokers. If previous upper gastrointestinal investigations were negative, the prevalence of ulcers was 53% in smokers and 28% in non-smokers. Of the 136 patients with a negative breath test, only 5% had peptic ulcers. The most frequent endoscopic finding in these H pylori negative subjects was oesophagitis, being present in 17%. CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that a positive H pylori test is a powerful predictor of the presence of underlying ulcer disease in dyspeptic patients, especially if smokers, and that a negative H pylori test is a powerful predictor of the absence of ulcer disease. It also indicates that a negative upper gastrointestinal investigation does not preclude subsequent presentation with ulcer disease.

    Statistics from

    Request Permissions

    If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.