Background: Duodenal mucosal biopsies are routinely taken for diagnosis in children with complaints of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Surprisingly, little is known about the usefulness of proximal duodenal versus distal duodenal biopsies for routine diagnostic purposes. This study evaluated the comparability of proximal and distal duodenal biopsies with respect to mucosal morphology as well as glycohydrolase expression as an indicator of intestinal epithelial function. Methods: Specimens obtained in duodenal endoscopic biopsies from 64 children, ranging in age from 3 months to 18 years with normal or affected mucosa, were studied. Biopsies were performed in anatomically defined regions in the bulbus duodeni (the very proximal part of the duodenum) and distally of the papilla of Vater (distal of the pancreatic duct). Biopsy specimens were paraformaldehyde-fixed for histologic examination and immunohistochemical evaluation or were homogenized to isolate RNA. Crypt/villus morphology was assessed as is routinely determined by pathologists. In addition, several aspects of lactase and sucrase-isomaltase expression as paradigms of intestinal brush border enzymes were assessed: localization at the cellular level, semiquantitative immunohistochemistry, and quantitative measurement of the messenger RNA levels of the respective brush border glycohydrolases. Results: As anticipated, there was a wide interpatient variation in mucosal morphology and expression of lactase and sucrase-isomaltase. Nonetheless, the consistent finding was that in each patient, measurements of morphology and lactase and sucrase-isomaltase gene expression were very similar between samples obtained in the proximal and distal biopsies. Conclusions: Biopsies performed in either location in the duodenum are equally suitable for diagnostic workup of patients suspected of mucosal abnormalities affecting morphology or small intestinal brush border glycohydrolase activities.

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Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Department of Pediatrics

van Beers, E.H, Einerhand, A.W.C, Taminiau, J.A, Heymans, H.S.A, Dekker, J, & Büller, H.A. (1998). Pediatric duodenal biopsies: Mucosal morphology and glycohydrolase expression do not change along the duodenum. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 26(2), 186–193. doi:10.1097/00005176-199802000-00013