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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Veterans at the Houston VA "Breathe in a Bag" for Diagnosis of Stomach Ulcers

April 11, 2005

Veterans at the Houston VA "Breathe in a Bag"
for Diagnosis of Stomach Ulcers

April 11, 2005

HOUSTON - The Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) uses the breath test as one method to diagnose the cause of upper abdominal discomfort, indigestion, peptic ulcers, and gastric cancer and provide appropriate treatment. This diagnostic method begins when a patient drinks a non-radioactive carbon drink and then breathes into a special plastic bag. The bag is then connected to a diagnostic machine to analyze the presence of a bacterium called H.pylori.

Found in the lining of the stomach, H.pylori is a common infection and has been found to be the number one cause of peptic ulcer disease, as well as a recognized cause of gastric cancer. About 20 percent of people under 40 years old and half of those over 60 years have H. pylori infection. H.pylori infection is treatable with antibiotics. Elimination of this bacteria leads to a permanent cure for peptic ulcer disease.

At the MEDVAMC, the breath test technology is an easy, painless method of testing for H.pylori bacteria. “This is a very sensitive and reliable test with results in approximately six minutes. Over the last two decades, MEDVAMC has been a prominent center for H.pylori research worldwide,” said Waqar A. Qureshi, M.D., MEDVAMC chief of endoscopy, Digestive Disease Section.

Prior to the discovery of this bacteria, spicy foods, stress, and lifestyle were considered to be major causes of ulcers. It is now known that these recurring ulcers are an infectious disease and are treated as an infection of the stomach.

"Veterans at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center continue to benefit from our scientific advances in medicine and the new technology available here," said Qureshi.