September 16, 2009

Celiac disease poses slight death risk

Patients with lesser degrees of celiac disease symptoms, such as intestinal inflammation, have a modestly increased risk of death, Swedish researchers say.

Celiac disease -- an immune disorder triggered by gluten exposure in those who are genetically sensitive -- results in mucosa abnormalities in the small intestine.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was based on data on celiac disease stage determined by intestinal tissue biopsies taken in Sweden from July 1969-February 2008.

Dr. Jonas F. Ludvigsson of Orebro University Hospital in Sweden, and colleagues analyzed data for 29,096 biopsies showing celiac disease -- 13,306 indicating inflammation and 3,719, latent celiac disease. They matched these with age and sex controls and estimated death risks.

The risk of death increased most in the first year of follow-up after diagnosis -- 2.8-fold in those with celiac disease, 4.7 in those with inflammation and 1.8 in those with latent celiac disease. The risk of death decreased with age.

In conclusion, we found increased risks for death in individuals with biopsy-verified celiac disease, inflammation and latent celiac disease, although absolute risks were small, the study authors said in a statement. Individuals undergoing small-intestinal biopsy in childhood had increased risks for death. Cardiovascular disease and malignancy were the main causes of death in celiac disease.