Background & aims: Clinical significance and duration of insufficient release of pancreatic enzymes in childhood celiac disease have not been clarified. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role that pancreatic impairment plays in growth recovery and the duration of this impairment.
Methods: Forty-six patients with celiac disease who had a median age of 2.5 years were enrolled. Fecal chymotrypsin level was determined at diagnosis and then every 15 days after the beginning of a gluten-free diet in all patients.
Results: At diagnosis, 17 of 46 patients with celiac disease had subnormal fecal chymotrypsin values. During the gluten-free diet, a progressive reduction in the percentage of patients with subnormal fecal chymotrypsin values was observed: 12 of 46 patients after 30 days and 2 of 46 patients after 60 days. Weight increase after 2 months of gluten-free diet was significantly greater in patients with normal fecal chymotrypsin values at diagnosis than in patients with subnormal values, and a positive correlation was found between fecal chymotrypsin at diagnosis and weight increase (r = 0.56).
Conclusions: A small percentage of patients with celiac disease still had subnormal chymotrypsin concentrations after 60 days of gluten-free diet. Fecal chymotrypsin is a predictive index of weight recovery in the first months after diagnosis of celiac disease; it could be used to select patients for enzyme supplementation therapy.