The insensitivity of endoscopic markers in celiac disease

Am J Gastroenterol. 2002 Apr;97(4):933-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2002.05612.x.


Objectives: Celiac disease (CD) is characterized by small intestinal inflammation and mucosal atrophy. Endoscopic markers of villous atrophy are reported to be present in 88-100% of untreated celiac patients. In patients being evaluated for iron deficiency anemia (IDA), we examined whether endoscopic markers could predict histological results consistent with CD.

Methods: One hundred thirteen patients without histories of CD had small bowel biopsies to evaluate IDA using videoendoscopy. Markers suggesting villous atrophy were noted at endoscopy. Biopsy specimens were reviewed for consistency with CD. Endoscopic and histological findings were compared.

Results: Seventeen patients were diagnosed with CD, both clinically and histologically. Loss of folds was the most sensitive marker of villous atrophy, present in 47% with CD, with 97% specificity. The mosaic pattern was much less sensitive (12%), with 100% specificity. Nodularity and scalloping had low sensitivities (6%), but specificities of 95% and 100%, respectively. A finding of any endoscopic marker yielded a sensitivity of 59% and specificity of 92% for CD.

Conclusions: Although endoscopic markers have been guides for directing small bowel biopsies in patients suspected of having CD, we found sensitivities of these markers to be low and conclude that they should not be relied upon for detecting CD in patients presenting with IDA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / pathology*
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Celiac Disease / pathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestine, Small / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity