Background Children with a shunted hydrocephalus are at highest risk for developing an immediate type allergy to latex. Limited data are available for preventive or therapeutical approaches.
Objective To evaluate the effectiveness of latex avoidance, with special regard to status of sensitization and compliance.
Methods In 1995, 131 children with a shunted hydrocephalus were screened for sensitization to latex by skin prick test and determination of specific IgE. Patients and parents were instructed on latex-avoiding strategies. Hospital physicians, family doctors and dentists were advised to perform further surgical and other medical interventions under latex-free conditions.
In 2000, 100 of these 131 patients were re-evaluated according to the same testing procedures. Special attention was directed at the extent prophylaxis had been performed.
Results In 1995, 30/100 patients re-evaluable in 2000 proved sensitized to latex, 70 had negative testing results. In 2000, 64/70 patients were still negative, six had meanwhile developed latex-specific IgE. Seven out of thirty subjects with former positive testing had changes within the same RAST-class, 20 showed a decline of at least one RAST-class, whereas in three cases an increase of latex-specific IgE was found. However, only 34 patients, mainly those being already sensitized, had thoroughly followed both medical and private prophylaxis. Within this group, 16 subjects (47.1%) had improved and another nine (26.5%) were still negative. Only three (8.8%) already previously sensitized patients presented with a further increase of latex-specific IgE. Medical prevention contributed more to the outcome than home prevention. No statistically significant correlation with latex-avoidance was observed, however, in previously unsensitized subjects. Underlying disease, atopy, number of operations, and age did not prove as significant variables.
Conclusion Secondary prevention results in a decrease of specific IgE in latex-sensitized patients with hydrocephalus. This is due to medical more than home prophylaxis. Sensitization obviously occurs mainly in early childhood, thus primary prevention remains to be the main target.