Course Case Studies

Celiac Disease

Course #38562 - $20 • 4 Hours/Credits

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  • Participation Instructions
    • Review the course material online or in print.
    • Complete the course evaluation.
    • Review your Transcript to view and print your Certificate of Completion. Your date of completion will be the date (Pacific Time) the course was electronically submitted for credit, with no exceptions. Partial credit is not available.
Learning Tools - Case Studies


T is a girl, 7 years of age, who presents to her pediatrician, Dr. G, with complaints of fatigue, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. T weighed eight pounds, three ounces at birth, and her growth and development have been consistent and appropriate. She has no pre-existing conditions and is current on all of her immunizations.

T is afebrile and her vital signs are within normal limits. A diagnosis of viral gastritis is made. Dr. G advises T's mother (Mrs. H) to limit her daughter's diet to bland foods and give the symptoms time to run their course. Mrs. H is advised to call if symptoms do not improve.

At home, T rests and consumes chicken broth and gelatin. After three days, she is feeling better and ready to return to school. At school the next day, T lunches at 11:30 a.m. on tomato soup, a grilled cheese sandwich, and mixed fruit. T is feeling tired but otherwise well. She consumes all of her soup and fruit, but only a few bites of the sandwich. Around 1:00 p.m., T complains to her teacher of stomach cramping and asks to go to the restroom.

Mrs. H picks T up from school at 3:00 p.m.; T continues to experience stomach cramping and tells her mother that she has had three episodes of diarrhea that day. When she arrives home, T consumes nothing but gelatin and ginger ale and spends the rest of the day in bed. Although T feels better the next morning, Mrs. H keeps her at home and in bed and continues to give T only gelatin, chicken broth, and ginger ale. For the next two weeks, Mrs. H keeps T on a diet of soups and liquids to allow her stomach time to recover. When T appears to be improving, Mrs. H decides to slowly introduce other foods back into her diet.

Within two days, T relapses and experiences diarrhea, bloating, and stomach cramping. Mrs. H schedules a follow-up appointment with Dr. G, who re-evaluates T and discovers that she has lost one pound in body weight and that her stomach is tender to palpation. Dr. G orders additional workup, including blood work, with the following results:

  • Hemoglobin: 10.8 g/dL (Normal range: 11.5–14.5 g/dL)

  • Hematocrit: 34% (Normal range: 35% to 42%)

  • Platelets: 225 (Normal range: 250–500)

  • Sodium: 127 mEq/L (Normal range: 136–145 mEq/L)

  • Potassium: 3.3 mEq/L (Normal range: 3.5–5.0 mEq/L)

  • Calcium: 6.9 mg/dL (Normal range: 9.0–11.0 mg/dL)

  • Albumin: 2.6 g/dL (Normal range: 3.5–5.5 g/dL)

Mrs. H and T return to Dr. G's office to review the results of the blood work. T has continued to have spells of diarrhea and stomach pains, and she has lost an additional six ounces. Dr. G suspects that T has CD. He schedules further evaluation and an EGD.

Two weeks later, Mrs. H and T return to Dr. G's office for a consultation. Dr. G explains the study results, which revealed atrophy of intestinal villi. He explains that T is experiencing malabsorption of important nutrients, likely due to an intolerance to wheat, rye, or barley products in the foods she is eating. T is referred to a dietitian, Ms. D, who specializes in pediatric nutrition and CD.

T and her parents meet with Ms. D, who explains that CD is an immunologic response to wheat, rye, or barley products that causes destruction of the lining of the small intestine, which in turn causes malabsorption of important nutrients. Ms. D further explains that destruction of the lining leads to diarrhea, fatty stools, weight loss, foul-smelling gas, and iron-deficiency anemia. She reassures the family that, although it sounds frightening, CD is easily controlled with dietary changes and provides the family with a list of foods to avoid as well as sources of "hidden" gluten (e.g., school supplies).

Ms. D works with the family to develop one week's worth of gluten-free meals that T will be willing to eat. They openly and at length discuss challenges that the family may encounter. Ms. D recommends that the family explore a nearby CD support group, which can help them with the adjustments they need to make.

T and her mother return to Dr. G's office for a one-year check-up. T's laboratory tests are normal, and she is slowly gaining weight. Mrs. H reports that T has had some minor episodes of bloating and diarrhea after eating something on the forbidden list when at a friend's house. Dr. G states that T is progressing well and indicates that a few slips in the diet are to be expected, but reminds them that these should not be frequent.

One month later, Mrs. H finds T lying on her bed, crying. Mrs. H asks what is wrong, but T responds that she does not want to talk about it. When Mrs. H persists, T tells her that she was not invited to V's sleepover because V's mother is afraid that T will eat something she should not and get sick. She also reports taunting and feeling left out at school.

Mrs. H calls one of the mothers from the support group to discuss what is happening to T, and the mother provides Mrs. H with some helpful tips. Mrs. H then schedules a meeting with T's teacher to educate him about T's CD and to discuss ways to help lessen the alienation T is feeling. Mrs. H asks him to telephone her if another student's parent plans a celebration so that she can send in a special treat for T. He agrees and promises to be more aware of the way that T is being treated by her classmates.

Later in the week, Mrs. H calls V's mother and invites her to meet for coffee. When they meet the next day, Mrs. H explains what CD is and how it is controlled. She tells V's mother that she is not trying to force her to invite T to her home; she simply wants her to know that CD is nothing to fear. V's mother explains that she was not sure she wanted to take the risk of T becoming ill at her home if she ate something she was not supposed to have. Mrs. H responds that T is very knowledgeable about what she can and cannot eat and explains that small amounts of forbidden foods do not cause a severe reaction in T. That evening, V calls and invites T to the sleepover and apologizes for not having invited her sooner.

After the telephone call, Mr. and Mrs. H discussed some of the misconceptions that the school and their community had about CD. They decide to develop an educational program to present to area schools to increase awareness about CD. Six months later, they have presented the program to local schools and received positive responses and many questions. The next year, prior to the start of the school year, the couple is asked to return and present the information again.

T states that her school days improved greatly after the educational programs were presented.

  • Back to Course Home
  • Participation Instructions
    • Review the course material online or in print.
    • Complete the course evaluation.
    • Review your Transcript to view and print your Certificate of Completion. Your date of completion will be the date (Pacific Time) the course was electronically submitted for credit, with no exceptions. Partial credit is not available.