Background The high prevalence of latex sensitization in patients with spina bifida (SB) has been attributed to repeated and early exposure to latex products. Other diseases such as gastroschisis/omphalocoele and post-haemorrhagic/congenital hydrocephalus are also associated with repeated and early latex exposure.
Objective The aim of the study was to evaluate whether the high prevalence of latex sensitization in patients with SB is rather related to the underlying disease itself than to disease-associated known risk factors.
Methods We compared children with SB (n=35), children with gastroschisis/omphalocoele (G/O, n=20) and children with post-haemorrhagic/congenital hydrocephalus (PH, n=45). All children with SB and PH had a ventriculo-peritoneal shunt since a very young age. Patients who underwent three or less surgical procedures matched in terms of age, number of operations, atopy and gender distribution, and were analysed for IgE sensitization rates to latex.
Results In the SB group, 16 of 35 patients (46%) showed elevated latex-specific IgE antibodies in contrast to one of 20 patients (5%) in the G/O group and four of 45 patients (8.9%) in the PH group (P<0.0005 and P<0.005, Fisher's exact test). Comparing matched control groups (3 operations), the effects remained significant (P<0.05 and P<0.01).
Conclusion This study suggests that the SB population bears a disease-associated propensity for latex sensitization. This effect cannot be explained exclusively by a higher number of operations and differences related to atopy, age or gender.