Simple Breath Test Might Diagnose Heart Failure
Noninvasive method found accurate in small, early study
By Alan Mozes
MONDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental breath test, designed to quickly identify patients suffering from heart failure simply by analyzing the contents of a single exhaled breath, has demonstrated promise in early trials, a team of researchers says.
The investigators stressed that their evaluation is based on a small group of participating patients, and that more extensive research will have to be done to confirm their initial success.
But by subjecting a patient's breath to a rigorous but fast analysis of the hundreds of so-called volatile organic compounds contained therein, the study team said it has so far been able to correctly diagnose heart failure among newly hospitalized patients with a 100 percent accuracy.
"Every individual has a breath print that differentiates them from other people, depending on what's going on in their body," explained study lead author Dr. Raed Dweik, a staff physician in the department of pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine with the Respiratory Institute at Cleveland Clinic. "And that print can tell us a lot about a person, what they've been exposed to and what disease they have," he added.
"That's what makes the new field of breath testing so promising, because it is non-intrusive, so there is no risk involved," Dweik said. "And you can do it anywhere, in a clinic, in a hospital, anywhere."
The findings were published March 25 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The study authors pointed out that the most common reason American patients are admitted to a hospital is when there is a suspicion of heart failure -- a tough-to-treat condition in which the heart's pumping action grows gradually weaker over time.
Currently, a diagnosis of heart failure comes from a variety of factors, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. These include medical history and symptoms, and a physical exam in which a doctor will listen to a patient's heart and lung sounds, and check ankles, feet, legs and abdomen for signs of fluid buildup. Blood tests and an electrocardiogram can help confirm that heart failure exists.