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Urea Breath Test

A urea breath test (UBT) is when you are given a special drink and then you to blow some air into a small container. This is to find out if you have a certain type of bacteria in your stomach that can cause inflammation, indigestion and pain.

Why do I need one?

A breath test is used to see if you have a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori in your stomach. These bacteria can give you gas, indigestion and pain in your stomach. If it's not treated, Helicobacter pylori can also make your stomach inflamed, cause peptic ulcers (wounds in your stomach lining that don't heal easily) and can even lead to stomach cancer. Your doctor will send you to have a UBT if you have any of the signs of symptoms of any of these conditions.

What do I have to do before I have it?

You should make sure you don't take any antibiotics for 4 weeks or medicines that stop your stomach making acid for 2 weeks before your test. These could make it look like don't have the bacteria in your stomach even though you do.

You also shouldn't eat anything six hours before you have your test. You also shouldn't drink anything including water for an hour before your test.

How is it done?

Your doctor will give you a glass of orange juice to drink and then ask you to blow through a straw into a small glass or plastic container. You will then have to have a special drink that contains urea (that's why it's called urea breath test!). Your doctor will then tell you to wait for half an hour and then blow through a straw into another container.

The two containers with your breath samples will then be sent to a laboratory so that they can be compared. At the lab they will measure how much carbon dioxide is in your breath after each drink. If you have the bacteria it would have digested all the urea and made lots of carbon dioxide.

Because you will have to wait half an hour to complete the test after you take the special urea drink, it is a good idea to take something to read to keep you busy.

Will it hurt?

No, a urea breath test doesn't hurt at all. It doesn't even taste bad. It tastes kind of like lemon!

What happens next?

If your urea breath test result comes back positive, your doctor will prescribe some antibiotics for you to take. You will have to take a combination of two antibiotics and another acid-suppressing medicine for a few weeks. If your doctor says you will have to have 'combination therapy' or 'triple therapy' he or she just means that you will need to be taking three medicines. This should get rid of the Helicobacter bacteria in your stomach.

You will then have to do another test about four weeks after you finish taking your antibiotics just to make sure that they worked and that all the bacteria are gone. This might be another urea breath test or a stool test.

What if I have any other questions?

If you have any other questions, you can ask your doctor, or chat to other people about urea breath tests in the Medikidz forums and virtual world, Mediland.