Recently I wrote an article describing how we may be able to use the analysis of a patient’s breath to make a diagnosis or monitor a condition. The term given to this type of test is a BreathPrint. Since then I have been collecting a list of the things that we now analyze in the breath of our patients. The main compounds that we can currently test for include: ethanol, C14-urea and nitric oxide. These are referred to as volatile organic compounds or VOC’ s. The above compounds are used to determine (in order) alcohol intoxication, the presence of a specific stomach infection with a bacteria called H.pylori, and problems with worsening asthma.
The most recent addition to this list is an analysis of the breath for compounds associated with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), which is a condition that can lead to heart failure and death if undiagnosed and untreated. The importance of having a simple reliable test in this particular disease comes from the fact that patients usually need a right heart catheterization to diagnose and monitor this condition. The BreathPrint of patients with PAH is clearly different than a normal person. Higher levels of exhaled ammonia in PAH patients seem to correlate with the severity of the disease and are believed to reflect the metabolic activity going on in this disease process.
Having said all this, a routine BreathPrint analysis for this problem is not yet available but the research in BreathPrint analysis offers future promise.