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Contemporary celiac disease diagnosis: is a biopsy avoidable?

Mills, John R.; Murray, Joseph A.

Current Opinion in Gastroenterology: March 2016 - Volume 32 - Issue 2 - p 80–85
doi: 10.1097/MOG.0000000000000245
SMALL INTESTINE: Edited by Fergus Shanahan

Purpose of review The duodenal biopsy is the gold standard for the diagnosis of celiac disease. However, given improvements in the performance of serological testing, the possibility of accurately diagnosing celiac disease without the need of a biopsy has attracted interest. The European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition has revised its recommendations to include a diagnostic algorithm that includes sequential serological testing and human leukocyte antigen genotyping for symptomatic children which would enable a diagnosis of celiac disease to be made in the absence of a confirmatory intestinal biopsy.

Recent findings Recent studies have evaluated the ESPGHAN guidelines and have mostly corroborated that celiac disease can be accurately diagnosed in specific pediatric patient populations without the need of a biopsy. However, two cautionary points have been raised that warrant further consideration – the success of this approach is highly dependent targeting a population with a high pretest probability of celiac disease, as well, the performance of serology assays must be established and the appropriate use of cutoffs is essential.

Summary The duodenal biopsy will remain the gold standard for diagnosing celiac disease in a majority of patients. However, as serology assays evolve and as a greater understanding of the genetic risk factors of celiac disease is achieved, more patients may be accurately diagnosed without the need for a biopsy.

aDepartment of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology

bDivision of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and Department of Immunology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

Correspondence to Joseph A. Murray, MD, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA. Tel: +1 507 255 5173; e-mail:

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