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More is not always better: routine screening not always beneficial

Indianapolis -- Doing more is not always better. Improving the quality of medical care does not necessarily dictate providing additional care. And in the case of children with Down syndrome, routine screening for celiac disease in children without symptoms of the disease, as recommended by at least one medical professional organization, does more harm than good according to a study by Indiana University School of Medicine researchers published in the August issue of Pediatrics.

"Although there are tests to find out whether a child with Down syndrome has celiac disease before the child develops symptoms, early treatment does not appear to improve the child's quality of life or improve outcomes from one of the long-term consequences of celiac disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," said Nancy Swigonski, M.D., M.P.H., the study's first author and an associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and affiliated scientist of the Regenstrief Institute, Inc.

Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. Individuals with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Untreated celiac disease is thought to increase the risk of intestinal lymphoma.

Using decision analysis, a tool for weighing alternative courses of action in terms of their potential benefits and liabilities, the researchers looked at the potential benefit of preventing gastrointestinal malignancy by detecting celiac disease in children without symptoms of the disease and weighed the benefit against the cost and quality of life issues associated with screening and treatment of celiac disease. They also calculated the number of asymptomatic children with Down syndrome who needed to be screened to prevent a single case of lymphoma.

The researchers report that routine screening of all children with Down syndrome woul
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Contact: Cindy Fox Aisen
caisen@iupui.edu
317-274-7722
Indiana University
11-Aug-2006


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