Background: While gluten-free diet is an effective treatment for coeliac disease, the need for and goals of long-term management of patients are poorly defined.
Aim: To review systematically the complications and associations of coeliac disease, to identify potential risk factors, to define ways of assessing risk factors and to provide a strategy for management.
Methods: Review of medical literature from 1975.
Results: There is an increasing list of potential complications and/or conditions associated with coeliac disease, in particular, autoimmune disease, malignancy and bone disease. Risk factors that may predict or influence long-term outcomes include genetic susceptibility, environmental factors predominantly gluten ingestion, persistent small intestinal inflammation/injury and nutritional deficiencies. Genotyping of patients is yet to have an established clinical role in long-term management. Assessment of adherence to the gluten-free diet largely relies upon skilled dietary history, but the ultimate test is duodenal histopathology, which is the only currently established means of assessing healing. Symptoms, serology or other non-invasive means are poor predictors of healing and the likelihood of complications.
Conclusion: Evidence (albeit limited) that adherence to a gluten-free diet and mucosal healing prevent and/or ameliorate complications indicates that a planned long-term strategy for follow-up is essential.