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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Importance of duodenal bulb biopsies in children for diagnosis of celiac disease in clinical practice

Mohsin Rashid* and Andrea MacDonald

Author Affiliations

Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, IWK Health Center, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

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BMC Gastroenterology 2009, 9:78  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-9-78

Published: 16 October 2009



The patchy nature of villous lesion in celiac disease is increasingly being recognized. Current guidelines recommend four endoscopic duodenal mucosal biopsies from the second or more distal part of the duodenum to confirm the diagnosis of celiac disease. The purpose of the study was to investigate the usefulness of duodenal bulb mucosal biopsies in confirming the diagnosis of celiac disease in everyday clinical practice.


All patients with a positive tissue-transglutaminase antibody requiring biopsy-confirmation of celiac disease over a two-year period were studied. Two endoscopic biopsies were taken from the duodenal bulb and four biopsies from the second (or distal) part of the duodenum.


Thirty-five patients were included, mean age 8.1 (± 4.7) years. Thirty-one (88.6%) patients had abnormal distal duodenal biopsies, one had Marsh type 1, one had Marsh type 2 and twenty-nine had Marsh type 3 lesion. All but two patients with abnormal distal duodenal biopsies also had abnormal bulb biopsies. Four (11.4%) patients had normal distal duodenal biopsies but abnormal bulb biopsies. Of these, one patient had Marsh type 2 and three had Marsh type 3 lesion. The distal duodenum was also grossly normal in these four patients. The histological diagnosis of celiac disease would not have been possible in these four cases with distal duodenal biopsies only.


The lesion in celiac disease in children can be patchy with duodenal bulb mucosa being the only area showing histological changes. The recommendations regarding the site of biopsies should be revised to include biopsies not only from distal duodenum but also from bulb to improve the diagnostic yield.