1 Unit of Clinical Medicine and Hepatology, Unit of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, Campus Bio-Medico University Hospital, Rome 00128, Italy. firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 Unit of Clinical Medicine and Hepatology, Unit of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, Campus Bio-Medico University Hospital, Rome 00128, Italy.
3 Unit of Electronics for sensor systems, Department of Engineering, University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Rome 00128, Italy.
Liver disease is characterized by breath exhalation of peculiar volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Thanks to the availability of sensitive technologies for breath analysis, this empiric approach has recently gained increasing attention in the context of hepatology, following the good results obtained in other fields of medicine. After the first studies that led to the identification of selected VOCs for pathophysiological purposes, subsequent research has progressively turned towards the comprehensive assessment of exhaled breath for potential clinical application. Specific VOC patterns were found to discriminate subjects with liver cirrhosis, to rate disease severity, and, eventually, to forecast adverse clinical outcomes even beyond existing scores. Preliminary results suggest that breath analysis could be useful also for detecting and staging hepatic encephalopathy and for predicting steatohepatitis in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. However, clinical translation is still hampered by a number of methodological limitations, including the lack of standardization and the consequent poor comparability between studies and the absence of external validation of obtained results. Given the low-cost and easy execution at bedside of the new technologies (e-nose), larger and well-structured studies are expected in order to provide the adequate level of evidence to support VOC analysis in clinical practice.