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Medical Imaging

Nuclear Medicine > Exams & Procedures > Carbon-14 Urea Breath Test

This test checks to see if the presence of the bacteria Helicobacter Pylori is the cause of stomach problems.

The test involves taking two breath samples and swallowing a radioactive tracer called carbon-14 (C-14). The detection of C-14 in the breath samples determines the presence of the bacteria.


  • You should have nothing to eat or drink eight hours prior to the test.
  • No anti-acids (Tums, Rolaids, Maalox, Losec, Prevacid, Ranitidine, etc.) for two weeks prior to the test.
  • No antibiotics one month prior to the test.
  • No bismuth compounds (e.g. Pepto-Bismol) one month prior to the test.
  • Bring a list of all medications and supplements you take. This includes vitamins, herbal remedies, and holistic medications.
  • Do not bring children or pregnant women with you to the department. We do not want to expose them to unnecessary radiation.
  • Any of these procedures is subject to change according to the nuclear medicine physician. The duration of the tests is a rough estimate. Please be aware that the time may be lengthened if a scan has to be repeated, if emergency cases are brought to the department or due to unforeseen circumstances.

About the Procedure

  • The procedure takes about 15 minutes.
  • A technologist will briefly explain the test to you and try to answer any questions you may have about the procedure.
  • A technologist will ask you a few questions about your medical history and medications.
  • You will be asked to do a breath sample in which you will blow through a tube into a vial that is specially designed to detect the presence of the bacteria.
  • You will be asked to brush your teeth, tongue, and gums with a sponge to help eliminate any mouth bacteria.
  • You will be given a pill that contains a trace amount of C-14 urea. C-14 is a natural radioactive material used to detect the presence of bacteria, and urea is food for the bacteria.
  • You will repeat the breath sample 12 minutes after you take the pill.