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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Helicobacter Pylori Tests
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Helicobacter pylori tests are used to detect a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection in the stomach and upper part of the small intestine (duodenum). H. pylori can cause peptic ulcers. But most people with H. pylori in their digestive systems do not develop ulcers.
Four tests are used to detect H. pylori:
H. pylori tests are done to:
In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.
Medicines may change the results of this test. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the prescription and nonprescription medicines you take. Your doctor may recommend that you stop taking some of your medicines.
You will be asked to not eat or drink anything for a certain amount of time before having a breath test or a stomach biopsy. Follow your doctor's instructions about how long you need to avoid eating and drinking before the test.
Many medicines may change the results of this test. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the prescription and nonprescription medicines you take. Your doctor may recommend that you stop taking some of your medicines.
A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.
A breath sample is collected when you blow into a balloon or blow bubbles into a bottle of liquid. The health professional will:
For this test, you may be asked to collect the stool sample at home. To collect the sample, you need to:
A procedure called endoscopy is used to collect samples of tissue from the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. The tissue samples are tested in a lab to see if they contain H. pylori.
When a blood sample is taken, you may feel nothing at all from the needle. Or you might feel a quick sting or pinch.
This test usually doesn't cause any pain or discomfort.
This test usually doesn't cause any pain or discomfort.
If your doctor collects the sample during a rectal exam, you may feel some pressure or discomfort as the cotton swab is inserted into your rectum.
You may notice a brief, sharp pain when the intravenous (IV) needle is placed in a vein in your arm. The local anesthetic sprayed into your throat usually tastes slightly bitter and will make your tongue and throat feel numb and swollen. Some people report that they feel as if they cannot breathe at times because of the tube in their throat, but this is a false sensation caused by the anesthetic. There is always plenty of breathing space around the tube in your mouth and throat. Remember to relax and take slow, deep breaths.
You may have some gagging, nausea, bloating, or mild abdominal cramping as the tube is moved. Even though you won't be able to talk during the procedure because you have a tube in your throat, you can still communicate. If the discomfort is severe, alert your doctor with an agreed-upon signal or a tap on the arm.
The IV medicines will make you feel sleepy. Other side effects—such as heavy eyelids, trouble speaking, a dry mouth, or blurred vision—may last for several hours after the test. The medicines may also cause you not to remember much of what happens during the test.
There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.
There are no known risks or complications with a urea breath test. If radioactive carbon is used, the amount of radioactivity exposure is extremely small—less than you normally get from being outside during the day.
There are no risks or complications with a stool sample. But if you don't wash your hands well after collecting the sample, you may spread germs.
There is a slight risk of puncturing the wall of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum during an endoscopy to collect stomach biopsy samples. The biopsy may also cause some bleeding at the site where the samples are collected. But the bleeding usually stops without treatment.
Results from the urea breath test or a stool antigen test are usually available within a few hours. Results from a blood antibody test are usually available within 24 hours. Results from biopsy samples obtained by endoscopy are usually available within 48 hours. Results from a biopsy sample that is cultured can take up to 10 days.
The blood sample does not contain H. pylori antibodies.
The blood sample contains H. pylori antibodies.
The breath sample does not contain the tagged carbon dioxide.
The breath sample contains the tagged carbon dioxide.
The stool sample does not contain H. pylori antigens.
The stool sample contains H. pylori antigens.
The biopsy sample does not contain H. pylori bacteria.
H. pylori bacteria does not grow in a culture of the tissue biopsy samples.
The biopsy sample contains H. pylori bacteria.
H. pylori bacteria grows in a culture of the tissue biopsy samples.
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
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