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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

13C-methacetin breath test as liver function test in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection.

BACKGROUND: The 13C-methacetin breath test enables the quantitative evaluation of the cytochrome P450-dependent liver function. AIM: To find out whether this breath test is sensitive in noncirrhotic patients also with chronic hepatitis C in early stages of fibrosis. METHODS: Sixty-one healthy controls and 81 patients with chronic hepatitis C underwent a 13C-methacetin breath test. In all patients, a liver biopsy was performed. The liver histology was classified according to the histology activity index-Knodell score. RESULTS: Delta over baseline values of the patients at 15 min significantly differed from controls (19.2 +/- 9.2 per thousand vs. 24.1 +/- 5.7 per thousand; P < 0.003). The cumulative recovery after 30 min in patients was 11.4 +/- 4.8% and in healthy controls 13.8 +/- 2.8% (P < 0.002). However, patients with early fibrosis (histology activity index IVB) did not differ in delta over baseline values of the patients at 15 min (23.2 +/- 7.9 per thousand vs. 22.6 +/- 7.2 per thousand; P = 0.61) or cumulative recovery (13.6 +/- 3.7% vs. 13.2 +/- 3.8%; P = 0.45) from patients with more advanced fibrosis (histology activity index IVC). Patients with clinically nonsymptomatic cirrhosis (histology activity index IVD; Child A) metabolized 13C-methacetin to a significantly lesser extent (delta over baseline values of the patients at 15 min: 8.3 +/- 4.9 per thousand; P < 0.005 and cumulative recovery after 30 min: 5.6 +/- 3.2%; P < 0.003). The 13C-methacetin breath test identified cirrhotic patients with 95.0% sensitivity and 96.7% specificity. CONCLUSION: The non-invasive 13C-methacetin breath test reliably distinguishes between early cirrhotic (Child A) and noncirrhotic patients, but fails to detect early stages of fibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C.[1]


  1. 13C-methacetin breath test as liver function test in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Braden, B., Faust, D., Sarrazin, U., Zeuzem, S., Dietrich, C.F., Caspary, W.F., Sarrazin, C. Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. (2005) [Pubmed]
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