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Breath Test Can Predict Heart Failure

Update Date: Mar 26, 2013 09:58 AM EDT

Breathe in, breathe out.

In the future, detecting heart failure may be as simple as taking a breath test. A recent study conducted by researchers at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and Case Western University has found that it is possible to detect heart failure through a breath test. The findings may mean improved care for heart failure patients.

According to MedPage Today, the study was conducted using 25 patients with heart failure and 16 controls without. The researchers collected each patient's breath with a device called an ion-flow tube mass-spectrometry, which is essentially a deflated balloon. Unlike more invasive tests, the researchers found that a breath test was easily tolerated by all the patients, even those who were in the intensive care unit.

The researchers found that the patients with heart failure had significantly greater amounts of two substances, acetone and penctane, that made the breath prints of the patients with heart failure distinctive. Though the patients with heart failure had higher blood pressure, the researchers had controlled for age, body mass index and other conditions like diabetes that might account for the difference in breath composition.

The findings of the study are useful because heart failure is the most common reason for hospital admission and readmission in the elderly. In fact, according to WCVB, many patients are readmitted within a month of their first hospital visit. Researchers hope that being able to uncover this information may help manage the care of patients with heart failure more appropriately.

However, researchers do not completely know how they can apply this new information, but are excited by the possibilities. "What to do with it is the next step," study author Raed Dweik said to KYPost. "Are we able to identify these patients before they get the heart failure or not? We have to study that. Are we able to monitor them over time and see when they get better does the breath get better as well? These are ongoing studies that we are doing and hopefully we'll be able to monitor these patients better and diagnose them better in the future."

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

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