Helicobacter pylori (abbreviated as H. pylori) is a bacteria that can infect the stomach or duodenum (first part of the small intestine). If left untreated, H. pylori bacteria can cause gastritis (an inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining) and duodenal or gastric ulcers. In addition, infection with H. pylori increases the risk of other diseases and is also a risk factor for gastric cancer.
Accurate detection of H. pylori is the first step toward curing stomach and intestinal ulcers, and preventing the development of more serious gastrointestinal problems.
How do you test for H. pylori?
The H. pylori breath test is a simple and safe test used to detect an active H. pylori infection. There are four ways to test for H. pylori:
- Breath Test
- Blood Tests
- Stool Test
The most common one we use at Suburban Gastroenterology is a breath test.
What happens during the breath test?
During the test, you will be asked to exhale into a balloon-‐like bag. The air you breathe into this bag is tested to provide a basis for comparison (called a baseline sample). You will then be asked to drink a small amount of a pleasant lemon-‐flavored solution. Fifteen minutes after drinking the solution, a second breath sample will be taken. The air you breathe into this bag is tested for an increase in carbon dioxide.
Guidelines before the procedure — Special conditions
Be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medicines or if you are phenylketonuric.
- You must be off the H. Pylori treatment for a minimum of four weeks
- Four weeks before the test do not take Pepto Bismol® (oral bismuth subsalicylate).
- Two weeks before the test do not take any prescription or over-‐the-‐counter proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec® [omeprazole], Prevacid® [lansoprazole], Protonix® [pantoprazole], Aciphex® [rabeprazole] or Nexium® [esomeprazole])
NOTE: Do not stop taking any other medicine without first talking with your doctor.
Eating and drinking
One hour before the test do not eat or drink anything (including water).
On the day of the procedure
Your doctor will explain the procedure in detail and answer any questions you might have. The procedure lasts about 20 to 30 minutes.
After the procedure
- Your breath samples are sent to the laboratory where they are tested.
- You may resume your normal activities.
- You may resume your normal diet and medicines unless you have other tests that require dietary restrictions.
- Your doctor will notify you as soon as your laboratory test results are available.
- If the test indicates that you do have a H. pylori infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.
- One month after antibiotic treatment your doctor might order a repeat breath test to make sure the infection has been cured.