Heart Failure Revealed in a Single Breath

Cleveland Clinic research aims to reduce hospital stays

Heart failure can be detected in a single exhaled breath, according to a new study lead by Cleveland Clinic’s Raed Dweik, MD, of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine. Results of the study appear in the April 2 issue of Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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The thousands of molecules found in
our breath may tell
us a lot about a
person’s health.

How ‘breathprints’ are captured

Dr. Dweik and his team asked heart failure patients admitted to the hospital to exhale once into a special hand-held collection device. The breath was analyzed in the laboratory and ‘breathprints’ were then compared to the breathprints of a group of hospitalized patients who did not have heart failure.

Test signals worsening heart failure

Says Dr. Dweik, “We consistently found that patients with heart failure had a different ‘breathprint.’” Specifically, results showed higher levels of the organic compounds acetone and pentane in the breath of patients admitted with worsening heart failure compared to those without heart failure.

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“Many patients get readmitted to the hospital frequently,” says Dr. Dweik. “So to be able to identify whose heart failure is uncontrolled is very important to be able to manage them appropriately. This test has potential to help with that.”

Research continues — stay tuned

“These interesting findings are still preliminary,” says W.H. Wilson Tang, MD, of Cardiovascular Medicine, who collaborated with Dr. Dweik in this study. “There is a need to confirm our observations in larger groups, and we have a lot more to learn about how to best use the information to manage our patients.”

In addition to heart failure, Dr. Dweik notes that someone’s breath may be able to uncover a lot of health information. “We are starting to recognize that the thousands of molecules found in our breath can tell us a lot about the state of health or disease of a person,” he says.

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For complete results, see the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

More information

Time magazine: Smell Test: Using Breath to Sniff Out Cancer, Infections and More

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