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Clinical Practice Update: How to manage refractory celiac disease

Experts release ten pieces of advice for diagnosing and treating this disease.
Flowchart for treating refractory celiac disease
Flowchart for treating refractory celiac disease

AGA has released a new Clinical Practice Update providing best practice advice on the diagnosis and management of refractory celiac disease.

Best practice advice

  • In patients believed to have celiac disease who have persistent or recurrent symptoms or signs, the initial diagnosis of celiac disease should be confirmed by review of prior diagnostic testing, including serologies, endoscopies and histologic findings.

  • In patients with confirmed celiac disease with persistent or recurrent symptoms or signs (nonresponsive celiac disease), ongoing gluten ingestion should be excluded as a cause of these symptoms with serologic testing, dietitian review, and detection of immunogenic peptides in stool or urine. EGD with small bowel biopsies should be performed to look for villous atrophy. If villous atrophy persists or the initial diagnosis of celiac disease was not confirmed, consider other causes of villous atrophy, including common variable immunodeficiency, autoimmune enteropathy, tropical sprue and medication-induced enteropathy.

  • For patients with nonresponsive celiac disease, after exclusion of gluten ingestion, perform a systematic evaluation for other potential causes of symptoms, including functional bowel disorders, microscopic colitis, pancreatic insufficiency, inflammatory bowel disease, lactose or fructose intolerance and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

  • Use flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry and T-cell receptor rearrangement studies to distinguish between subtypes of refractory celiac disease and to exclude enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma. Type 1 refractory celiac disease is characterized by a normal intraepithelial lymphocyte population and type 2 is defined by the presence of an aberrant, clonal intraepithelial lymphocyte population. Consultation with an expert hematopathologist is necessary to interpret these studies.

  • Perform small bowel imaging with capsule endoscopy and computed tomography or magnetic resonance enterography to exclude enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma and ulcerative jejunoileitis at initial diagnosis of type 2 refractory celiac disease.

  • Complete a detailed nutritional assessment with investigation of micronutrient and macronutrient deficiencies in patients diagnosed with refractory celiac disease. Check albumin as an independent prognostic factor.

  • Correct deficiencies in macro- and micronutrients using oral supplements and/or enteral support. Consider parenteral nutrition for patients with severe malnutrition due to malabsorption.

  • Corticosteroids, most commonly open-capsule budesonide or, if unavailable, prednisone, are the medication of choice and should be used as first-line therapy in either type 1 or type 2 refractory celiac disease.

  • Patients with refractory celiac disease require regular follow-up by a multidisciplinary team, including gastroenterologists and dietitians, to assess clinical and histologic response to therapy. Identify local experts with expertise in celiac disease to assist with management.

  • Patients with refractory celiac disease without response to steroids may benefit from referral to a center with expertise for management or evaluation for inclusion in clinical trials.

Watch as Dr. Alberto Rubio-Tapia shares his key takeaways from AGA’s new Clinical Practice Update.


Read the complete AGA Clinical Practice Update on Management of Refractory Celiac Disease: Expert Review published in the November issue of Gastroenterology and authored by Drs. Peter H.R. Green, Shirley Paski, Cynthia W. Ko, Alberto Rubio-Tapia.

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