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Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Jun;6(6):635-643.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2008.01.009. Epub 2008 Apr 14.

A stable isotope breath test with a standard meal for abnormal gastric emptying of solids in the clinic and in research.

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Clinical Enteric Neuroscience Translational and Epidemiological Research, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.



The aim of this study was to validate a [13C]-Spirulina platensis gastric emptying (GE) breath test (GEBT) with a standardized meal.


Thirty-eight healthy volunteers and 129 patients with clinically suspected delayed GE underwent measurements at 45, 90, 120, 150, 180, and 240 minutes after a 238 kcal meal labeled test with 100 mg [13C]-S platensis and 0.5 mCi 99mTc. We established normal ranges for scintigraphy with this test meal, intraindividual and interindividual coefficients of variation (COVs), and the ability of the [13C] GEBT breath percent dose excreted *1000 values to predict scintigraphic half-life and to categorize GE as delayed, normal, or accelerated.


In health, the 10th and 90th percentiles of half-life for scintigraphic GE with this meal were 52 and 86 minutes; intraindividual COVs for scintigraphy and the GEBT were, respectively, 31% and 27% at 45 minutes, 17% and 21% at 90 minutes, 13% and 16% at 120 minutes, 10% and 13% at 150 minutes, and 8% and 12% at 180 minutes. Interindividual COVs at each time for the [13C] GEBT and scintigraphy were typically approximately 1%-4% lower than intraindividual COVs. Individual breath samples at 45, 150, and 180 minutes predicted GE category; at 80% specificity, 45- and 180-minute samples combined were 93% sensitive to identify accelerated GE, and 150- and 180-minute combined were 89% sensitive for delayed GE.


[13C]-S platensis GEBT is as reproducible as scintigraphy; imprecision with both tests reflects physiologic variation. With 4 breath samples, this method with an off-the-shelf meal is valid to assess GE in clinic and in research.

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