Celiac.com 04/16/2010 - In most adults with celiac disease, clinical symptoms disappear with a gluten-free diet. However, the exact effects of a gluten-free diet on rates of mucosal recovery in adults with celiac disease is less certain.
A group of clinicians recently set out to estimate the rate of mucosal recovery under a gluten-free diet in adult subjects with celiac disease, and to gauge the clinical prospects of ongoing mucosal damage in celiac patients following a gluten-free diet.
Each patient in the study had biopsy-proven celiac disease, and was assessed at the Mayo Clinic. Also, each patient received duodenal biopsies at diagnosis. After beginning a gluten-free diet, each patient had at least one follow-up intestinal biopsy to assess mucosal recovery.
The study team focused on mucosal recovery and overall mortality. Of 381 adult patients with biopsy-proven celiac disease, a total of 241 (175 women - 73%) had both a diagnostic and follow-up biopsy available for re-review.
Using the Kaplan–Meier rate of confirmed mucosal recovery on these 241 patients, the study group found that 34% of patients enjoyed mucosal recovery at 2 years following diagnosis (95% with a confidence interval (CI): 27–40 % ), and 66% of patients enjoyed mucosal recovery at 5 years (95% CI: 58–74 % ).
More than 80% of patients showed some clinical response to the gluten-free diet, but clinical response was not a reliable marker of mucosal recovery ( P = 0.7). Serological response was, by far, the best marker for confirmed mucosal recovery ( P = 0.01).
Patients who complied poorly with a gluten-free diet ( P < 0.01), those with severe celiac disease defined by diarrhea and weight loss ( P < 0.001), and those with total villous atrophy at diagnosis ( P < 0.001) had high rates of persistent mucosal damage.
With adjustments for gender and age, patients who experienced confirmed mucosal recovery had lower mortality rates overall (hazard ratio = 0.13, 95 % CI: 0.02 – 1.06, P = 0.06).
One of the most important findings from this study was that a large number of adults with celiac disease see no mucosal recovery, even after treatment with a GFD.
Compared to those patients who suffered persistent damage, patients who experienced confirmed mucosal recovery had lower rates of mortality independent of age and gender.
The group notes that systematic follow-up via intestinal biopsies may be advisable in patients diagnosed with celiac disease as adults.