What tests are there for a stomach ulcer?
If your doctor thinks you may have a stomach ulcer, the initial tests will include some blood tests. These tests will help to check whether you have become anaemic because of any bleeding from the ulcer. The blood test will also check to see that your liver and pancreas are working properly.
The main tests that are then used to diagnose a stomach ulcer are as follows:
- A test to detect the H. pylori germ (bacterium) is usually done if you have a stomach ulcer. If H. pylori infection is found then it is likely to be the cause of the ulcer. The H. pylori bacterium can be detected in a sample of stools (faeces), or in a 'breath test', or from a blood test, or from a biopsy sample taken during a gastroscopy. See separate leaflet called Helicobacter Pylori and Stomach Pain for more details.
- Gastroscopy (endoscopy) is the test that can confirm a stomach ulcer. Gastroscopy is usually done as an outpatient 'day case'. You may be given a sedative to help you to relax. In this test, a doctor looks inside your stomach by passing a thin, flexible telescope down your gullet (oesophagus). The doctor will then be able to see any inflammation or ulcers in your stomach.
- Small samples (biopsies) are usually taken of the tissue in and around the ulcer during gastroscopy. These are sent to the laboratory to be looked at under the microscope. This is important because some ulcers are caused by stomach cancer. However, most stomach ulcers are not caused by cancer.
Further reading and references
Dyspepsia - proven peptic ulcer; NICE CKS, July 2015 (UK access only)
Cai S, Garcia Rodriguez LA, Masso-Gonzalez EL, et al; Uncomplicated peptic ulcer in the UK: trends from 1997 to 2005. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Nov 1530(10):1039-48. Epub 2009 Aug 26.
Sachs G, Scott DR, Wen Y; Gastric infection by Helicobacter pylori. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2011 Dec13(6):540-6. doi: 10.1007/s11894-011-0226-4.
Niv Y; H. pylori/NSAID--negative peptic ulcer - the mucin theory. Med Hypotheses. 2010 Nov75(5):433-5. Epub 2010 May 4.
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