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Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1999 Mar;11(3):283-8.

Prevalence and clinical importance of hypertransaminasaemia in coeliac disease.

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Department of Internal Medicine IV, University of Vienna, Austria.



To assess the prevalence and potential pathogenetic factors of hypertransaminasaemia in patients with coeliac disease prior to initiation of a gluten-free diet (GFD) and to assess the course of transaminases on a GFD.


A retrospective study was made of 178 patients with coeliac disease (130 women, 48 men; median age 36 years; range 17-84 years) at the gastroenterological department of a university hospital.


Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) were measured prior to initiation of a GFD and at 3, 6 and 12 months of GFD. Intestinal permeability, a test for functional integrity of the small bowel, was investigated before starting a GFD in 116 patients by an oral test using lactulose and mannitol.


In 72 patients (40.4%) AST and/or ALT were increased prior to initiation of a GFD. Within 1 year on a GFD ALT and AST normalized except in eight cases (4.6%). The intestinal permeability index (% lactulose/% mannitol in 5 h urine) was higher in patients with elevated (median 0.34; range 0.03-1.43) than in patients with normal transaminases (0.11; 0.02-1.28) (P < 0.0001) and correlated with AST (tau = 0.34; P < 0.0001) and ALT (tau = 0.32; P < 0.0001). In five cases with hypertransaminasaemia a liver biopsy was performed prior to initiation of a GFD. Two patients had mild to moderate hepatitis with septal fibrosis. The other three had minimal lymphocytic infiltrates of the portal tracts. Inflammatory alterations of the bile ducts were not found.


Hypertransaminasaemia before GFD is frequent in coeliac patients, correlates with intestinal permeability and normalizes on a GFD in most patients. In cases of persistently elevated liver function tests of unknown origin underlying coeliac disease should be considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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