Is the 13C-acetate breath test a valid procedure to analyse gastric emptying in children?

C. Gatti, F. Federici Di Abriola, L. Dall'Oglio, M. Villa, F. Franchini, S. Amarri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Purpose: Scintigraphy is regarded as the 'gold standard' procedure in measuring gastric emptying (GE) rates. 13C-acetate breath test (ABT), which already has been validated in adults, is a noninvasive and nonradioactive alternative method. The aim of the current study was to validate ABT against technetium Tc 99m scintigraphy in children affected by delayed GE. Methods: Sixty children were recruited and divided into 2 groups: group A, 30 healthy controls; group B, 30 patients with gastroesophageal reflux, and scintigraphy-documented DGE (15 neurologically impaired). After an overnight fast, all of them underwent ABT using 25 to 150 mg 13C- acetate. Breath samples were obtained at baseline and then every 10 minutes for 2 hours. The 13CO2 to 12CO2 ratio in breath samples was analysed by isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Data are expressed as follows: time of peak 13C exhalation (tP13CO(2b)) and half emptying time in ABT (t(1/2b)), and scintigraphy half emptying time (t(1/2s)). Results: In controls tP13CO(2b) was 37 ± 13 minutes and t(1/2b) 74 ± 12 minutes. In patients tP13CO(2b) and t(1/2b) were, respectively, 65 ± 26 minutes and 104 ± 18 minutes t(1/2s) was 91 ± 21 minutes. In group B tP13CO(2b) and t(1/2b) were delayed significantly compared with controls, respectively, P <.03 and P <.01. In group B significant correlation between t(1/2s) and t(1/2b) was noted (r1 = 0.97). A close correlation was also observed between t(1/2s) and tP13CO(2b) (r2 = 0.95). Conclusion: The 13C ABT is an easy, reliable, and less expensive procedure for measuring GE, and its results closely correlate with those of scintigraphy in a paediatric population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-65
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • C
  • Breath test
  • Delayed gastric emptying
  • Gastric scintigraphy
  • Gastroesophageal reflux

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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