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Helicobacter Pylori Tests

Helicobacter pylori tests are used to detect a Helicobacter pyloriHelicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection in the stomach and upper part of the small intestine (duodenum camera.gif). H. pylori can cause peptic ulcers camera.gif. But most people with H. pylori in their digestive systems do not develop ulcers.

Four tests are used to detect H. pylori:

  • Blood antibody test. A blood test checks to see whether your body has made antibodies to H. pylori bacteria. If you have antibodies to H. pylori in your blood, it means you either are currently infected or have been infected in the past.
  • Urea breath test. A urea breath test checks to see if you have H. pylori bacteria in your stomach. This test can show if you have an H. pylori infection. It can also be used to see if treatment has worked to get rid of H. pylori.
  • Stool antigen test. A stool antigen test checks to see if substances that trigger the immune system to fight an H. pylori infection (H. pyloriantigens) are present in your feces (stool). Stool antigen testing may be done to help support a diagnosis of H. pylori infection or to find out whether treatment for an H. pylori infection has been successful.
  • Stomach biopsy. A small sample (biopsy) is taken from the lining of your stomach and small intestine during an endoscopy. Several different tests may be done on the biopsy sample. To learn more, see the topic Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

Why It Is Done

A Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) test is done to:

  • Find out whether an infection with H. pylori bacteria may be causing an ulcer or irritation of the stomach lining (gastritis).
  • Find out whether treatment for an H. pylori infection has been successful.

How To Prepare

Blood antibody test

You do not need to do anything before you have a blood antibody test.

Stool antigen test

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.

  • Do not take antibiotics or medicines containing bismuth (such as Pepto-Bismol) for 1 month before the test.
  • Do not take proton pump inhibitors (such as Prilosec or Nexium) for 2 weeks before the test.

Stomach biopsy or urea breath test

Do not eat or drink for at least 6 hours before a breath test or a stomach biopsy.

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.

  • Do not take antibiotics or medicines containing bismuth (such as Pepto-Bismol) for 1 month before the test.
  • Do not take proton pump inhibitors for 2 weeks before the test.
  • Do not take H2 blockers, such as Pepcid, Zantac, Axid, or Tagamet, for 24 hours before the test.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 04, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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