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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Gastric as well as duodenal biopsies may be useful in the investigation of iron deficiency anaemia.

BACKGROUND: Iron absorption is known to be impaired in the setting of gastric achlorhydria, yet gastric atrophy is not usually considered an aetiological factor for iron deficiency anaemia. We aimed to determine the prevalence of achlorhydric gastric atrophy in patients with iron deficiency and no identifiable source of gastrointestinal blood loss, and to assess whether gastric, as well as duodenal, biopsies should be routinely performed in these patients. PATIENTS: Forty-one consecutive patients with iron deficiency anaemia and no specific gastrointestinal symptoms or evidence of a bleeding lesion on faecal occult blood testing or upper gastrointestinal or colonic endoscopy. METHODS: As well as routine duodenal biopsies, samples were taken from gastric corpus and antrum for evidence of gastric atrophy. Achlorhydria was considered to be present if plasma gastrin measured on a sample obtained with the patient fasting was over 200 ng/l. Serum was tested for intrinsic factor and gastric parietal cell antibodies. RESULTS: Haemoglobin concentrations ranged from 4.1 to 10.9 g/dl. Eight (20%) of the 41 patients had corpus-predominant or generalized atrophy and high plasma gastrin levels, of whom six had serum intrinsic factor and/or gastric parietal cell antibodies: two also had Giardia lamblia organisms in duodenal biopsies. Four other patients (10%) had villous atrophy of the duodenum. CONCLUSIONS: As well as confirming the importance of seeking coeliac disease in patients with iron deficiency anaemia, our results suggest that achlorhydric gastric atrophy is also a common association. Gastric biopsies should be taken in patients with no other explanation for anaemia. The finding of Giardia organisms in two achlorhydric patients, with a possible contributory role, suggests that duodenal biopsies should be obtained even if serum coeliac-related antibodies are absent.[1]


  1. Gastric as well as duodenal biopsies may be useful in the investigation of iron deficiency anaemia. Dickey, W., Kenny, B.D., McMillan, S.A., Porter, K.G., McConnell, J.B. Scand. J. Gastroenterol. (1997) [Pubmed]
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