In a study presented at the 2014 Digestive Disease Week conference in Chicago, researchers reported that less than half of people with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms who should be screened for celiac disease actually are evaluated for the disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged when glutens—a type of protein found in grains—are consumed. The intestinal damage prevents patients from absorbing important nutrients.
Dr. Heba Iskander led the study that looked at electronic medical records of all patients visiting Washington University in St. Louis’s Gastrointestinal Center over the course of three months. There were 616 patients in the study, and over half met the criteria set out by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) and the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) for celiac disease screening. Generally, screening is recommended for patients with chronic GI symptoms, such as abdominal pain following eating or chronic diarrhea with weight loss.
The researchers found, however, that only 43.4% of those with an indication for celiac disease screening were ever tested for the condition. Given this finding and the rate of positive diagnoses in the screened group, researchers were able to project that, at least, two celiac disease patients were missed in the three-month period.
The researchers concluded that a more aggressive approach for identifying screening candidates is needed.
Reference: Iskandar, Heba, et al. Celiac Disease Screening is Suboptimal in a Tertiary Gastroenterology Setting. Gastroenterology, Vol. 146, Issue 5, S-113–S-114. Published in issue: May, 2014.