Doctors are causing delays in diagnosing women with celiac disease. Photo: CC--Erik Wilde

Celiac.com 09/22/2016 - There really hasn't been much study done on diagnostic delays and factors associated with celiac disease, as well as on its potential impact on the course of disease.

To get a better idea of the issue, a research team recently conducted a large systematic patient survey study among unselected celiac disease patients in Switzerland.

The research team included SR Vavricka SR, N Vadasz, M Stotz, R Lehmann, D Studerus, T Greuter, P Frei, J Zeitz, M Scharl, B Misselwitz, D Pohl, M Fried, R Tutuian, A Fasano, AM Schoepfer, G Rogler, and L Biedermann. They are variously affiliated with the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Triemli Hospital Zurich in Zurich, Switzerland, IG Zöliakie, Basel, Switzerland, the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Gastroenterology Bethanien, Zurich, Switzerland, the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Spital Tiefenau, Bern, Switzerland, the Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, MassGeneral Hospital for Children, Boston, USA,and with the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital Lausanne - CHUV, Lausanne, Switzerland.

They broke their study down into patient-associated delays, and doctor-associated delays. They found an average total diagnostic delay of 87/24 months (IQR 5-96), with a range from 0 up to 780 months, which was fairly equally divided between doctor delay and patient delay. Both mean/median total (93.1/24 vs. 60.2/12, p<0.001) and doctors' (41.8/3 vs. 23.9/2, p<0.001) diagnostic delay were significantly higher when comparing female vs. male patients, and interestingly patients' delay was similar even after an irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis.

Patients with a diagnostic delay shorter than 2 years showed a substantially lower dependence on steroids and/or immunosuppressants, better substitution for any nutritional deficiency, and were more likely to be symptom-free between 6 and 12 months after diagnosis.

Regular, substantial delays in diagnosing celiac disease, are linked to worse clinical outcomes, and this data shows that such delays are significantly longer in female patients.

This increased diagnostic delay in women is the fault of doctors, not patients, in part because the delay statistics cannot be explained by a diagnosis of IBS prior to celiac disease diagnosis.

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