The value of proximal intestinal mucosal biopsy was reviewed in 381 children presenting with chronic diarrhoea over an eight year period. An enteropathy was detected in 44% of cases and was more frequently seen in those aged less than 6 months. A diagnosis was established in 91% of cases. The most common diagnosis was the postenteritis syndrome where the presence of an enteropathy indicated those requiring treatment with a cows' milk free diet. Other conditions where a biopsy facilitated diagnosis or treatment included giardiasis, enteropathogenic Escheriichia coli, crytosporidiosis, autoimmune enteropathy, and microvillous atrophy. Coeliac disease was considered in 55% of children and established in 8%, clearly identifying those requiring a gluten free diet. This also emphasises the important role of the biopsy procedure in the exclusion of specific diseases. Proximal small intestinal mucosal biopsy is an essential investigation in children with chronic diarrhoea in whom an enteropathy is suspected.
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