Background: Although it is known that anaemia may be the only presenting symptom in coeliac disease, prevalence figures of unsuspected coeliac disease in anaemic patients are not available. The aim of this study was to assess the clinical usefulness of antigliadin and antiendomysial antibody tests in the diagnostic algorithm of anaemic patients.
Methods: Two hundred consecutive anaemic patients were tested for antigliadin antibodies, and those positive were also tested for antiendomysial antibodies. All patients positive for antigliadin and antiendomysial antibodies underwent intestinal biopsy.
Results: Sixteen patients were antigliadin antibody-positive, and 10 were also antiendomysial antibody-positive. In all 10 a jejunal biopsy was consistent with coeliac disease (prevalence, 5%). This prevalence rose to 8.5% when patients with macrocytic anaemia or with microcytic anaemia due to previous bleeding or responsive to oral iron therapy were excluded from the calculation.
Conclusions: Coeliac disease is a frequent cause of iron-deficiency anaemia, and antigliadin and antiendomysial antibody tests should be always performed in the diagnostic algorithm of anaemic patients.