Cleveland Clinic develops breath diagnostic for heart failure

As researchers around the world work to develop noninvasive diagnostics to ease patient discomfort, the Cleveland Clinic is testing a diagnostic that can identify heart failure through a simple breath test.

In an early study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers figured how to test patients' unique "breathprints" for volatile organic compounds that signal heart failure, according to the clinic. In a prospective, single-center study of 61 patients, researchers found that patients with acute decompensated heart failure had higher levels of the compounds in their breath, opening the door for a breath-based diagnostic.

"The ability to identify patients with heart failure using a breath test has the potential for broad application due to its noninvasive nature and ease of application," lead investigator Raed Dweik said in a statement. "These exciting new observations may lead to future studies to determine how to best utilize these information to reduce heart failure re-hospitalizations."

Improving the efficacy of heart failure diagnostics is just as positive for patients' health as it is for healthcare costs, the clinic points out. About 24.8% of patients hospitalized with heart failure end up back there within 30 days, according to the clinic, and a simple breath-based diagnostic could help identify patients at high risk for readmission and drive down the cost of care.

A 61-patient study isn't large enough to prove the merits of the Cleveland Clinic's diagnostic, but the researchers believe they're onto something, calling for more examination of a method that could lead to a low-cost, noninvasive assay for a common cause of hospitalization.

- read more from the Cleveland Clinic
- check out the study abstract