Skip to content Skip to navigation

Diagnosing Heart Disease With A Breathalyzer

Diagnosing Heart Disease With A Breathalyzer

What does your breath say about your health?

Diagnosing Heart Disease With A Breathalyzer

Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 17:15

Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

(Inside Science TV) -- If police can detect alcohol on your breath … could doctors detect heart disease the same way?

"When people think of breath testing, they think of the breathalyzer. If you can do that on the side of the road, you can potentially do it anywhere," said Raed Dweik, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic Respiratory Institute. Including the doctor's office!

"Breath has so many compounds that come out that you measure that can tell a lot about a person's health or disease," he said.

In fact, everyone has their own personal breath print. Now, pulmonary specialists at the Cleveland Clinic are working with NASA engineers to read what your breath print says about your health.

"Everything in the blood that is potentially volatile comes up in the breath," said Dweik.

Thousands of molecules in the body are exhaled from the lungs. Volatile organic compounds evaporating into our breath reflect what's happening inside our bodies.

So far, researchers have been able to detect asthma, diabetes, liver disease and kidney disease from breath tests. But, there was one thing researchers didn't expect to find?

"We were completely blown away when we found out every single patient that comes in with acute decompensated heart failure has a unique breath print," said Dweik.

The typical breathalyzer could even detect different types of heart disease.

Kevin Decrane started feeling the symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension when he was just 35 years old. The right side of his heart was enlarged. It's a progressive and terminal disease.

"I’d be running up stairs and when I would get to the top of the stairs I’d get short of breath which really never happened before," said Decrane.

Decrane took the newly-developed breath test. The specimen from the test is filtered into a device called a mass spectrometer that helps identify the amount and type of chemicals present in breath.

From there, researchers will look for combinations of different molecules that can provide a sense of what's going on in the body.

For Decrane, it was proof of his diagnosis. 

"It was surprising that they can analyze your breath and find out so much about what's going on with your body," said Decrane.

A quick breath test that could revolutionize how diseases are detected in the future.

"Breath testing is non-invasive, non-intrusive, it can be done repeatedly and almost anywhere. I call this the new frontier of medical testing" said Dweik.

Get Inside The Science:

Smelling Your Way To A Healthier Tomorrow

Raed Dweik, Cleveland Clinic

Filed under


Authorized news sources may reproduce our content. Find out more about how that works. © American Institute of Physics

Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.