Background & aims: Refractory celiac disease (RCD) was recently subdivided into 2 subtypes (RCD I and II) based on a normal or abnormal phenotype of intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs), respectively. It is not clear, however, if these 2 entities differ in their presentation at diagnosis or long-term outcome. We compared the clinical and biological characteristics of RCD I and RCD II at diagnosis, the risk of developing an overt lymphoma, and the predictive factors of survival.
Methods: Medical files of 14 patients with RCD I and 43 with RCD II were analyzed retrospectively. Predictive factors of overt lymphoma and survival were studied in univariate and multivariate analyses.
Results: At diagnosis, malnutrition, ulcerative jejunitis, and lymphocytic gastritis were more common in patients with RCD II than RCD I (P< .05). Overt lymphomas occurred in 2 patients with RCD I and 16 with RCD II. In the univariate analysis, abnormal IEL phenotype and increased age at diagnosis of RCD were predictive factors for overt lymphoma. Abnormal IEL phenotype (P< .01), clonality (P= .01), and overt lymphoma (P= .001) predicted short survival time. Only abnormal IEL phenotype (P= .03) and overt lymphoma (P= .04) were predictive in the multivariate analysis. The 5-year survival rate was 93% in patients with RCD I and 44% with RCD II.
Conclusions: RCD II has a much more severe presentation and prognosis than patients with RCD I; <44% of patients with RCD II survive 5 years after diagnosis. Abnormal IEL phenotype is a predictive factor but not a necessary condition for the development of overt lymphoma.