Celiac Disease in Children with Diarrhea Is More Frequent than Previously Suspected
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BACKGROUND: Celiac disease (CD) may be missed or diagnosed late in children with chronic diarrhea. In this study the authors estimated the frequency of CD among pediatric patients with chronic diarrhea based on serologic and pathologic examinations. METHODS: During a 6-year period, all patients with chronic diarrhea of more than 6 weeks referred to the authors' department were included. For each patient, an asymptomatic control was enrolled from among the patients referred to our clinic for other reasons. Serologic tests for CD including immunoglobulin A endomysial antibody and immunoglobulin A antigliadin antibody were performed in all patients and controls. If positive, duodenal biopsy was performed to confirm the diagnosis. Patients subsequently diagnosed as CD were placed on a gluten-free diet and reevaluated after 6 months. RESULTS: 825 cases of diarrhea and 825 controls were enrolled. CD was diagnosed in 54 (6.5%) of the diarrhea patients and seven (0.8%) of the controls. After 6 months of gluten-free diet, 48 (88.8%) patients had significant improvement in symptoms and of these 41 (76.1%) were totally asymptomatic. Forty-two patients allowed repeat endoscopy after 6 months of gluten-free diet and 40 (95.2%) showed improvement in histologic findings. CONCLUSION: CD is common among patients labeled as chronic diarrhea. In this subgroup, gluten-free diet may lead to a significant improvement in symptoms. Routine testing for CD may be indicated in all patients being evaluated for chronic diarrhea.
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