Hydrogen breath test in the diagnosis of lactose malabsorption: Accuracy of new versus conventional criteria

Michele Di Stefano, Antonio Missanelli, Emanuela Miceli, Alessandra Strocchi, Gino Roberto Corazza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Increased hydrogen excretion in the breath after carbohydrate ingestion, an expression of carbohydrate malabsorption, represents the pathophysiologic basis of the hydrogen breath test, a simple, noninvasive, reproducible test for the diagnosis of this condition. Few data are available concerning the breath hydrogen response that most accurately identifies carbohydrate malabsorption. In this article we report our application for the first time in clinical practice of 2 recently described, more accurate criteria for the diagnosis of lactose malabsorption (ie, breath hydrogen excretion value > 6 parts per million (ppm) 6 hours after carbohydrate load and a sum greater than 15 ppm for the breath hydrogen values obtained 5, 6, and 7 hours after carbohydrate load). On 3 separate days, we subjected 84 consecutive patients with functional or organic gastrointestinal disease to measurement of hydrogen excretion in the breath after the administration of lactose to test for lactose malabsorption; after the administration of lactulose as a means of ruling out false-negative results resulting from hydrogen-nonproducer status; and after the administration of a nonabsorbable electrolyte solution as a means of ruling out false-positive results caused by the mixing of intestinal content and release of preformed hydrogen trapped in the feces. According to the conventional criterion, 51% of the subjects proved to be lactose malabsorbers. Positive results were obtained with the use of the 6th-hour criterion in 76% of patients, and positive results were found in 80% when the sum of the excretion at hours 5, 6, and 7 was used as the criterion (P

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-318
Number of pages6
JournalThe Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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