Disappointing sensitivity of endoscopic markers for villous atrophy in a high-risk population: implications for celiac disease diagnosis during routine endoscopy

Am J Gastroenterol. 2001 Jul;96(7):2126-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2001.03947.x.


Objective: Endoscopic markers of duodenal villous atrophy (VA) can facilitate diagnosis of celiac disease during routine upper GI endoscopy. We studied their sensitivity for VA in a large series of patients undergoing GI endoscopy specifically for duodenal biopsy. Poor sensitivity in this setting would have significant and adverse implications for their performance during routine endoscopy.

Methods: All patients with VA on duodenal biopsy performed for positive serum endomysial antibody (EmA) and/or clinical features suggestive of celiac disease were included. The second part of duodenum was inspected carefully for endoscopic markers using videogastroscopes.

Results: Of 129 patients studied, 99 (77%) had at least one endoscopic markers. The most commonly seen marker were a mosaic pattern mucosa (68 patients, 53%) and scalloping of duodenal folds (74 patients, 57%). The prevalence of markers was significantly lower for partial VA (15 of 26 patients, 58%) than for subtotal or total VA (84 of 103 patients, 82%) (p < 0.02).

Conclusions: Endoscopic markers have disappointing sensitivity even in a population at high risk of celiac disease, particularly for partial VA. Their performance may be even poorer in an unselected dyspeptic population. Although they may help improve diagnosis rates among patients with nonspecific dyspeptic symptoms, many patients, particularly those with milder enteropathy, will be missed. As celiac disease is an important cause of dyspepsia, consideration should be given to serological screening to further improve diagnosis rates, as few centers will have the resources to routinely biopsy all patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biopsy
  • Celiac Disease / pathology*
  • Child
  • Duodenoscopy / methods*
  • Duodenum / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers