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Helicobacter Pylori Tests

What To Think About

  • Most urea breath tests now use tagged carbon rather than radioactive carbon. If you are pregnant, the radioactive urea breath test for H. pylori is not usually done, because the radiation could harm your child.
  • The stool antigen test is the least expensive of the four tests for Helicobacter pylori, but it may not be as accurate as the other tests. The stomach biopsy is very accurate, but it is the most expensive and most risky of the four tests.
  • A negative stool antigen test does not always mean that an H. pylori infection is not present (false-negative).
  • Although many people are infected with H. pylori bacteria, only a few of them will develop peptic ulcer disease. For this reason, other factors (such as a person's symptoms) should be considered when interpreting the results of an H. pylori test.
  • Blood tests for H. pylori may be positive for several years after the infection, so the urea breath test, the stool antigen test, or a biopsy may be used to find out if treatment has been effective.
  • If your symptoms don't go away, an endoscopy may be needed. To learn more, see the topic Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
  • Having an infection with H. pylori increases your chances of having cancer of the stomach. But the risk is very low.
  • For some people who have taken medicine to treat a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, a follow-up test may be needed to make sure the infection is cured. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends a follow-up test to check for H. pylori infection whenever:1
    • A peptic ulcer is caused by H. pylori infection.
    • Stomach (gastric) mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma is caused by H. pylori infection.
    • Upset stomach (dyspepsia) symptoms are present even after H. pylori infection was tested for and treated.
    • Resection of early stomach (gastric) cancer has been done.

Related Information

Citations

  1. Chey WD, et al. (2007). American College of Gastroenterology guideline of the management of Helicobacter pylori infection. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 102(8): 1808–1825.

Other Works Consulted

  • Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
Last RevisedJanuary 4, 2012
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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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