Biologically inspired to mammalian olfactory system, electronic noses became popular during the last three decades. In literature, as well as in daily practice, a wide range of applications are reported. Nevertheless, the most pioneering one has been (and still is) the assessment of the human breath composition. In this study, we used a prototype of electronic nose, called Wize Sniffer (WS) and based it on an array of semiconductor gas sensor, to detect ammonia in the breath of patients suffering from severe liver impairment. In the setting of severely impaired liver, toxic substances, such as ammonia, accumulate in the systemic circulation and in the brain. This may result in Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE), a spectrum of neuro–psychiatric abnormalities which include changes in cognitive functions, consciousness, and behaviour. HE can be detected only by specific but time-consuming and burdensome examinations, such as blood ammonia levels assessment and neuro-psychological tests. In the presented proof-of-concept study, we aimed at investigating the possibility of discriminating the severity degree of liver impairment on the basis of the detected breath ammonia, in view of the detection of HE at its early stage.
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