On March 5th, 2021 Petra Rižnik, MD, from University Medical Centre Maribor has successfully defended her doctoral dissertation at the University of Maribor. In her work she was focusing on celiac disease management practices in five Central European countries: Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia. She analysed the data provided by twelve partners within the Focus IN CD project co-financed by EU Interreg Central Europe Programme.
Paediatric gastroenterologists from partner institutions were encouraged to complete a web-based questionnaire, providing anonymised medical data of children and adolescents diagnosed with CD focusing on the onset of the CD-related symptoms, diagnostic delay, clinical presentation and diagnostic approach.
In her work she found that a non-classical clinical presentation and asymptomatic celiac disease are becoming more common than classical clinical presentation with malabsorption. She also found that only about 20% of children and adolescents were diagnosed without duodenal biopsy, although about 60% would have been eligible to undergo this less invasive approach. Both of these factors could contribute to diagnostic delays, which were however found to be shorter compared to the delays reported from other regions. Only modest regional differences in the delay between the onset of symptoms and the final diagnosis were found within Central Europe despite important differences between healthcare systems in the region, which are causing differences in the availability of diagnostic methods and/or competence and the capacity of paediatric gastroenterology services. Despite very positive results with the respect to celiac disease management in Central Europe, significant proportion of children and adolescents were still diagnosed with substantial delay indicating the need for further improvement.
Doctor Petra Rižnik has based on this concluded that further awareness-raising and learning activities are needed in order to further shorten the delays and to take full advantage of current guidelines for diagnosing celiac disease in children and adolescents. Better knowledge will effectively reduce the number of unrecognised patients and unnecessary diagnostic delays and will improve the quality of patient care.
Her work now continues within the CD SKILLS project co-financed by EU Interreg Danube Transnational Programme, in which new partners from the Danube region are involved.