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A Breath Test For Heart Failure?

Monday, March 25, 2013 at 4:36 PM

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Credit: Cleveland Clinic.  Used with permission.

Over 5 million Americans suffer from heart failure—meaning their hearts have trouble pumping blood out to the body. It’s often caused by heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure. There are many ways to diagnose it but they can be expensive or invasive. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic think they might have hit on a new, simpler way to ID heart failure: a breathe test. ideastream’s Anne Glausser has more.

Heart failure is usually diagnosed by ordering tests like EKGs, x-rays, MRIs, and blood work. 

But new research suggests maybe all a patient needs to do is take a deep breath in, and blow it out.

Dr. Raed Dwiek is a physician at the Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

DWIEK:  We were surprised to find that the breath of these patients is quite different from others who do not have heart failure.

Dweik and his team analyzed the chemical content of heart failure patients’ breath, and found elevated levels of two compounds: acetone and pentane. 

DWIEK:  So this is something we call the “breath print”—like you think of a fingerprint, you know somebody’s fingerprint and you can identify what’s going on, where they have been, what they’ve been doing…

The study was published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Dweik says eventually researchers hope to develop a low cost breath test for heart failure.

DWIEK:  That’s the holy grail for the future—we’re not there yet but this is a proof-of-concept to tell us that it is possible.

There’s already an FDA-approved breath test for asthma, and Dwiek says more are in development for lots of other conditions like liver and kidney disease and lung cancer.

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