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Dig Dis Sci. 1994 Jul;39(7):1505-10.

Lactulose hydrogen breath test in orocecal transit assessment. Critical evaluation by means of scintigraphic method.

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  • 1Servizio di Gastroenterologia ed Endoscopia Digestiva, Ospedale Maggiore, Bologna, Italy.


Orocecal transit time can be studied easily using the hydrogen breath test with lactulose, but the method has some important limitations. The orocecal transit time of 10 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome was measured twice, at a one-week interval, by breath test and scintigraphy simultaneously using an aqueous solution of 20 g lactulose containing 74 MBq of [99mTc]DTPA. Abdominal radioactivity and alveolar hydrogen values obtained every 5 min were noted and used to obtain the following: orocecal transit time by the two methods; ileocecal lactulose flow; total and per gram of lactulose hydrogen production; mean hydrogen concentration during the right colon filling; and measurement error of the breath test with respect to the scintigraphy. In the case of the breath test, the orocecal transit time intrapatient reproducibility was better (coefficient of variation = 13.5%) when a hydrogen threshold increment of 5 ppm was used; the best correlation with the scintigraphic measurement was observed at this threshold (r = 0.90, P < 0.001). The breath test overestimated orocecal transit time with the error correlating negatively and significantly with the total hydrogen production and, particularly, the mean hydrogen concentration (r = 0.79, P < 0.01): for a mean hydrogen concentration of more than 15 ppm, the error was negligible, while within this value there was a noticeable overestimation. To conclude, the lactulose hydrogen breath test is capable of giving an accurate measurement of orocecal transit time if a hydrogen threshold increment of 5 ppm is chosen and if the mean hydrogen concentration in the first 30 min of the right colon filling is taken into account.

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