Celiac crisis presenting with status epilepticus and encephalopathy

Eur J Pediatr. 2014 Dec;173(12):1561-4. doi: 10.1007/s00431-013-2097-1. Epub 2013 Jul 31.


Celiac crisis is a life-threatening presentation of celiac disease which is described in the context of classic gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms of diarrhea, leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Neurologic manifestations are atypical symptoms of celiac crisis. To the best of our knowledge, there is no published report on seizure or encephalopathy as the presenting manifestation of celiac crisis. We describe a 2-year-old boy presenting with acute status epilepticus and lethargy. Prior to presentation, he had mild abdominal distention and intermittent diarrhea. Laboratory analysis revealed hyponatremia, anemia, hypocalcemia, transaminitis, and hyperglycemia. Electroencephalography revealed severe diffuse encephalopathy, and complete infectious work-up was negative. Initial brain magnetic resonance imaging was normal; however, repeat imaging showed osmotic demyelination syndrome. Given the history of GI symptoms and hyperglycemia, celiac serology was obtained revealing elevated tissue transglutaminase, and a diagnosis was confirmed by Marsh 3c lesions in the duodenum. He significantly improved with steroid therapy in addition to adequate nutrition, fluids, and initiation of a gluten-free diet.

Conclusion: We report herein on the first case of celiac crisis presenting with status epilepticus and encephalopathy in the absence of profound GI symptoms. Our case suggests that celiac crisis should be considered in the differential of seizures and encephalopathy in children.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis
  • Brain Diseases / etiology*
  • Celiac Disease / complications
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Demyelinating Diseases / diagnosis
  • Demyelinating Diseases / etiology*
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Humans
  • Lethargy / etiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Status Epilepticus / diagnosis
  • Status Epilepticus / etiology*