Standardised exhaled breath collection for the measurement of exhaled volatile organic compounds by proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry

A. Bikov, K. Paschalaki, R. Logan-Sinclair, I. Horváth, S.A. Kharitonov, P.J. Barnes, O.S. Usmani, P. Paredi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Exhaled breath volatile organic compound (VOC) analysis for airway disease monitoring is promising. However, contrary to nitric oxide the method for exhaled breath collection has not yet been standardized and the effects of expiratory flow and breath-hold have not been sufficiently studied. These manoeuvres may also reveal the origin of exhaled compounds.Methods: 15 healthy volunteers (34 ± 7 years) participated in the study. Subjects inhaled through their nose and exhaled immediately at two different flows (5 L/min and 10 L/min) into methylated polyethylene bags. In addition, the effect of a 20 s breath-hold following inhalation to total lung capacity was studied. The samples were analyzed for ethanol and acetone levels immediately using proton-transfer-reaction mass-spectrometer (PTR-MS, Logan Research, UK).Results: Ethanol levels were negatively affected by expiratory flow rate (232.70 ± 33.50 ppb vs. 202.30 ± 27.28 ppb at 5 L/min and 10 L/min, respectively, p <0.05), but remained unchanged following the breath hold (242.50 ± 34.53 vs. 237.90 ± 35.86 ppb, without and with breath hold, respectively, p = 0.11). On the contrary, acetone levels were increased following breath hold (1.50 ± 0.18 ppm) compared to the baseline levels (1.38 ± 0.15 ppm), but were not affected by expiratory flow (1.40 ± 0.14 ppm vs. 1.49 ± 0.14 ppm, 5 L/min vs. 10 L/min, respectively, p = 0.14). The diet had no significant effects on the gasses levels which showed good inter and intra session reproducibility.Conclusions: Exhalation parameters such as expiratory flow and breath-hold may affect VOC levels significantly; therefore standardisation of exhaled VOC measurements is mandatory. Our preliminary results suggest a different origin in the respiratory tract for these two gasses. © 2013 Bikov et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • acetone
  • alcohol
  • nitric oxide
  • volatile organic compound
  • adult
  • article
  • breath analysis
  • breathing
  • controlled study
  • expiratory flow
  • expiratory flow rate
  • female
  • gas analysis parameters
  • human
  • lung disease
  • male
  • mass spectrometry
  • normal human
  • proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry
  • proton transport
  • respiratory tract disease
  • standard
  • total lung capacity
  • exhalation
  • metabolism
  • peak expiratory flow
  • physiology
  • procedures
  • reproducibility
  • respiratory system
  • standards
  • time
  • Acetone
  • Adult
  • Breath Tests
  • Ethanol
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Respiratory System
  • Time Factors
  • Total Lung Capacity
  • Volatile Organic Compounds


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