Screening for celiac disease in children with recurrent abdominal pain

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2001 Sep;33(3):250-2. doi: 10.1097/00005176-200109000-00004.


Background: The clinical presentation of celiac disease--a life-long gluten intolerance--may be characterized by chronic abdominal pain. The objective of this study was to determine if children with recurrent abdominal pain had a higher prevalence of antiendomysial antibodies (a serologic marker of celiac disease) compared with healthy children.

Methods: Children with recurrent abdominal pain and healthy control participants were recruited from the offices of community pediatricians. Serum samples were drawn and antiendomysial antibodies were measured in both groups. Demographic data included age, gender, height, and weight.

Results: A total of 200 children were recruited, of whom 173 (87%) had serum samples drawn. Of these, 92 were children with recurrent abdominal pain and 81 were control participants. Only 2 of the 173 samples (1.2%) were positive for antiendomysial antibody. The frequency of antiendomysial antibody positivity in children with recurrent abdominal pain was 1 in 92 (1%; 95% confidence interval, 0-6%) compared with 1 in 81 (1%; 95% confidence interval, 0-7%) in control participants.

Conclusions: This community-based case-control study found no association between recurrent abdominal pain and the prevalence of antiendomysial antibody. Therefore, these data do not support screening for celiac disease in the child with classic recurrent abdominal pain in the primary care setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / blood
  • Abdominal Pain / etiology*
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Celiac Disease / complications*
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis
  • Celiac Disease / immunology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Recurrence
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Autoantibodies