Celiac.com 02/06/2013 - Villous atrophy (VA) in the small intestine is one of the prime features of celiac disease, and has been associated with increased mortality, but it is unknown if mortality is influenced by mucosal recovery.
To better understand the relationship between mucosal healing and mortality in celiac disease, a research team set out to determine whether persistent villous atrophy is associated with mortality in celiac disease patients.
The team used biopsy reports from every pathology department (n = 28) in Sweden to identified 7,648 individuals with celiac disease, which they defined as the presence of villous atrophy, and who had undergone a follow-up biopsy within 5 years of diagnosis. They used Cox regression to assess mortality according to follow-up biopsy.
Celiac patients were 28.4 years of age, on average, and 63% were female. The average follow-up after diagnosis was 11.5 years. Overall, patients who underwent follow-up biopsy had lower mortality rates than those who did not undergo follow-up biopsy (Hazard Ratio 0.88, 95% CI: 0.80-0.96).
Of the 7648 patients who underwent follow-up biopsy, 3317 (43%) showed persistent villous atrophy. In all, 606 (8%) patients died. However, patients with persistent villous atrophy died at about the same rates as those with mucosal healing (HR: 1.01; 95% CI: 0.86-1.19).
Also, children with persistent villous atrophy showed no increase in mortality (HR: 1.09 95% CI: 0.37-3.16) or adults (HR 1.00 95% CI: 0.85-1.18), including adults older than age 50 years (HR: 0.96 95% CI: 0.80-1.14).
Mortality rates for celiac patients with persistent villous atrophy are about the same as for celiac patients with healthy guts. So, persistent villous atrophy is not tied to higher mortality for celiac disease patients. That means that even though a follow-up biopsy will help doctors to spot refractory disease in symptomatic patients, persistent villous atrophy is not useful in predicting future mortality.