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Spencer M, Lenhart A, Baker J, Dickens J, Weissman A, Read AJ, Saini S, Saini SD. Primary care physicians are under-testing for celiac disease in patients with iron deficiency anemia: Results of a national survey. PLoS ONE. 2017 Sep 20; 12(9):e0184754.
BACKGROUND: Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is a common extra-intestinal manifestation of celiac disease (CD). Little is known about the frequency with which primary care physicians (PCPs) test for CD in patients with IDA. We aimed to describe how PCPs approach testing for CD in asymptomatic patients with IDA. METHODS: We electronically distributed a survey to PCPs who are members of the American College of Physicians. Respondents were asked whether they would test for CD (serologic testing, refer for esophagogastroduodenoscopy [EGD], or refer to GI) in hypothetical patients with new IDA, including: (1) a young Caucasian man, (2) a premenopausal Caucasian woman, (3) an elderly Caucasian man, and (4) a young African American man. These scenarios were chosen to assess for differences in testing for CD based on age, gender, and race. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify independent predictors of testing. RESULTS: Testing for CD varied significantly according to patient characteristics, with young Caucasian men being the most frequently tested (61% of respondents reporting they would perform serologic testing in this subgroup (p < 0.001)). Contrary to guideline recommendations, 80% of respondents reported they would definitely or probably start a patient with positive serologies for CD on a gluten free diet prior to confirmatory upper endoscopy. CONCLUSIONS: PCPs are under-testing for CD in patients with IDA, regardless of age, gender, race, or post-menopausal status. The majority of PCPs surveyed reported they do not strictly adhere to established guidelines regarding a confirmatory duodenal biopsy in a patient with positive serology for CD.