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Research paper
Should we be ‘nervous’ about coeliac disease? Brain abnormalities in patients with coeliac disease referred for neurological opinion


Objectives To examine the extent of brain abnormality in patients with coeliac disease referred for neurological opinion and evaluate MR imaging sequences as biomarkers for neurological dysfunction, given the lack of readily available serological markers of neurological disease in this cohort.

Methods Retrospective examination of a consecutive cohort of patients (n=33, mean age=44±13 years (range 19–64)) with biopsy proven coeliac disease referred for neurological opinion. Patients were divided into subgroups based on their primary neurological complaint (balance disturbance, headache and sensory loss). 3T MR was used to evaluate differences in brain grey matter density, cerebellar volume, cerebellar neurochemistry and white matter abnormalities (WMAs) between subjects and controls.

Results Cerebellar volume was significantly less in the patient group than in controls (6.9±0.7% vs 7.4±0.9% of total intracranial volume, p<0.05). Significantly less grey matter density was found in multiple brain regions, both above and below the tentorium cerebelli, than in controls (p<0.05). 12 (36%) patients demonstrated WMAs unexpected for the patient's age, with the highest incidence occurring in the headache subgroup. This subgroup averaged almost twice the number of WMAs per MR imaging than the subgroup with balance disturbance and six times more than the subgroup with sensory loss.

Conclusion Patients with established coeliac disease referred for neurological opinion show significant brain abnormality on MR imaging. MR imaging may provide valuable biomarkers of disease in this patient cohort.

  • Cerebellar ataxia
  • neuroimmunology
  • MR
  • MRS
  • neuroradiology
  • cerebellar degeneration
  • MRI
  • b12 deficiency
  • cerebellar degeneration
  • cerebellar disease

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