What is it?

This test is used to examine the metabolic processes and the functional capacity of certain organs. It is a safe procedure.

13C is a stable isotope and is not radioactive. It can be used without any problems for pregnant women and children. It is abundant in cornflakes among other things. The patient eats or drinks a 13C labelled product (i.e. substrate). In the body, this is converted to, among others, CO2. The 13C labelled CO2 is measured in the exhaled air.

What do we test?

Helicobacter pylori (1U)

Helicobacter plays an important role in the development of peptic ulcers. The bacterium can be detected in the stomach by means of a 13C urea breath test. A leaflet about this breath test can be found at the bottom of this page.

Lipid metabolism (6U)

A 13C mixed triglyceride breath test is used to measure lipase activity/pancreas function. This test is used for, among others, applications for reimbursement for pancreatic enzyme replacement.

Lactose metabolism (3U)

A 13C breath test can be used to detect lactose deficiency. Patients with a lactose deficiency are unable to digest milk or dairy products.

Gastric emptying (4U)

A 13C-octanoate breath test can be used to demonstrate if a person has slow or normal digestion.

Test procedure

  • Apart from the test to detect Helicobacter pylori, all breath tests require fasting!
  • Please register with your identity card at the e-kiosk in the atrium. The Digestive Centre is located on the level, gate F2b. Before you take your seat in the waiting room, please register at the Digestive Centre secretariat.
  • The nurse will come to collect you for the test.
  • Before the actual start of the test, you will be asked to blow in a bag.
  • Then you ingest the 13C labelled product and you will be asked to blow in different bags at predetermined times.
  • The duration of the test depends on the organ or metabolic process that is being examined.


Centres and specialist areas

Obesity Centre
Digestive Centre

Latest publication date: 05/02/2021
Supervising author: Dr Vanderstraeten Erik