Continuous 13C-methacetin breath test differentiates biliary atresia from other causes of neonatal cholestasis

Eyal Shteyer, Gadi Lalazar, Nilla Hemed, Orit Pappo, Esther Granot, Baruch Yerushalmi, Eitan Gross

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Scopus citations


    BACKGROUND AND AIM: Distinguishing biliary atresia (BA) from other causes of neonatal cholestasis (NC) is challenging. Continuous BreathID C-methacetin breath test (MBT) is a novel method that determines liver function. Methacetin is metabolized uniquely by the liver and CO2 is measured passively, through a nasal cannula in the exhaled breath. The aim of this study was to assess the ability of MBT to differentiate BA from other causes of NC. METHODS: MBT was performed in infants with NC before any invasive procedure. Percent dose recovered (PDR) peak and time to peak (TTPP) of C recovered were correlated with blood test results and degree of fibrosis on liver biopsy. RESULTS: Fifteen infants were enrolled in the study. Eight were eventually diagnosed as having BA. MBT showed that infants with NC from various causes reached the PDR peak after 44.5±6.7 minutes, whereas infants with BA reached the PDR peak value after 54.7±4.3 minutes (P<0.005). This suggested low cytochrome P450 1A2 activity in the BA group. The area under the curve (AUC) was 0.95 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.83-1), sensitivity of 88%, and specificity of 100%. CONCLUSIONS: This pilot study shows that MBT can differentiate between BA and other causes of NC by time to peak of methacetin metabolism. The results suggest that MBT may be used as part of the diagnostic algorithm in infants with liver disease. Larger-scale studies should be conducted to confirm these initial observations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)60-65
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


    • biliary atresia
    • diagnosis
    • methacetin breath test
    • neonatal cholestasis

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
    • Gastroenterology


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