Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

INTRODUCTION: Patients presenting with acute undifferentiated breathlessness are commonly encountered in admissions units across the UK. Existing blood biomarkers have clinical utility in distinguishing patients with single organ pathologies but have poor discriminatory power in multifactorial presentations. Evaluation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath offers the potential to develop biomarkers of disease states that underpin acute cardiorespiratory breathlessness, owing to their proximity to the cardiorespiratory system. To date, there has been no systematic evaluation of VOC in acute cardiorespiratory breathlessness. The proposed study will seek to use both offline and online VOC technologies to evaluate the predictive value of VOC in identifying common conditions that present with acute cardiorespiratory breathlessness. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: A prospective real-world observational study carried out across three acute admissions units within Leicestershire. Participants with self-reported acute breathlessness, with a confirmed primary diagnosis of either acute heart failure, community-acquired pneumonia and acute exacerbation of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will be recruited within 24 hours of admission. Additionally, school-age children admitted with severe asthma will be evaluated. All participants will undergo breath sampling on admission and on recovery following discharge. A range of online technologies including: proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry, gas chromatography ion mobility spectrometry, atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation-mass spectrometry and offline technologies including gas chromatography mass spectroscopy and comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry will be used for VOC discovery and replication. For offline technologies, a standardised CE-marked breath sampling device (ReCIVA) will be used. All recruited participants will be characterised using existing blood biomarkers including C reactive protein, brain-derived natriuretic peptide, troponin-I and blood eosinophil levels and further evaluated using a range of standardised questionnaires, lung function testing, sputum cell counts and other diagnostic tests pertinent to acute disease. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The National Research Ethics Service Committee East Midlands has approved the study protocol (REC number: 16/LO/1747). Integrated Research Approval System (IRAS) 198921. Findings will be presented at academic conferences and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Dissemination will be facilitated via a partnership with the East Midlands Academic Health Sciences Network and via interaction with all UK-funded Medical Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council molecular pathology nodes. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT03672994.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





breath analysis, breathlessness, observational study, volatile organic compound, Acute Disease, Adult, Breath Tests, Cardiovascular Diseases, Data Collection, Diagnosis, Differential, Dyspnea, Exhalation, Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry, Humans, Multicenter Studies as Topic, Observational Studies as Topic, Prospective Studies, Respiratory Tract Diseases, Sample Size, Sputum, Volatile Organic Compounds