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Long-Term Follow-Up of Celiac Adults on Gluten-Free Diet: Prevalence and Correlates of Intestinal Damage

Ciacci C.a · Cirillo M.b,c · Cavallaro R.a · Mazzacca G.a
aDepartment of Internal Medicine, Gastrointestinal Unit, Federico II University of Naples, and cDepartment of Pediatrics, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy; bDepartment of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Ill., USA Digestion 2002;66:178–185 (DOI:10.1159/000066757)

Abstract

Background and Aims: Celiac disease is the most common severe food intolerance in the Western world and is due to gluten ingestion in genetically susceptible children and adults. Intestinal biopsy is the golden standard for evaluation of mucosal damage associated with celiac disease. Gluten-free diet is the key treatment for celiac disease. Data on the long-term control of celiac disease are few and limited to small series of patients. The study reports data on the control of celiac disease and on its correlates in a large cohort of celiac adults during long-term treatment with gluten-free diet. Methods: The study cohort comprises 91 men and 299 women having undergone treatment with a gluten-free diet for at least 2 years and with complete records for visits at the time of diagnosis of celiac disease (baseline). Data collection included gender, age, education, weight, bowel habit, blood hemoglobin, plasma albumin and cholesterol, serum antiendomysium antibodies (EMA), dietary compliance to gluten-free diet (coded as good, low, or very low), and intestinal damage at biopsy (coded as absent, mild, or severe). Results: The duration of follow-up was 6.9 ± 7.5 years (mean ± SD, range 2–22 years). At follow-up visit, intestinal damage was absent in 170 patients (43.6%), mild in 127 (32.6%), and severe in 93 (23.8%). At follow-up, intestinal damage was significantly associated with dietary compliance, EMA, and plasma albumin (follow-up value and change value from baseline to follow-up). Baseline education significantly predicted dietary compliance and intestinal damage at follow-up. Conclusions: Celiac disease is often poorly controlled in the majority of patients on long-term treatment with a gluten-free diet as demonstrated by intestinal biopsy. Lack of adherence to strict gluten-free diet is the main reason of poorly controlled disease in adults. Laboratory and clinical information have a high positive predictive value and low negative predictive value for intestinal damage on long-term treatment. Dietary compliance as assessed by interview is the best marker of celiac disease control due to low cost, noninvasivity, and strong correlation with intestinal damage.

 

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