Anaphylaxis: Clinical concepts and research priorities

Authors


  • Simon GA Brown, B Med Sci, MB BS, DA(UK), FACEM, PhD, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine.

Associate Professor Simon GA Brown, Department of Emergency Medicine, Fremantle Hospital, Alma Street, Fremantle, WA 6160, Australia. Email: simon.brown@uwa.edu.au

Abstract

Anaphylaxis is a severe immediate-type hypersensitivity reaction characterized by life-threatening upper airway obstruction bronchospasm and hypotension. Although many episodes are easy to diagnose by the combination of characteristic skin features with other organ effects, this is not always the case and a workable clinical definition of anaphylaxis and useful biomarkers of the condition have been elusive. A recently proposed consensus definition is ready for prospective validation. The cornerstones of management are the supine position, adrenaline and volume resuscitation. An intramuscular dose of adrenaline is generally recommended to initiate treatment. If additional adrenaline is required, then a controlled intravenous infusion might be more efficacious and safer than intravenous bolus administration. Additional bronchodilator treatment with continuous salbutamol and corticosteroids are used for severe and/or refractory bronchospasm. Aggressive volume resuscitation, selective vasopressors, atropine (for bradycardia), inotropes that bypass the β-adrenoreceptor and bedside echocardiographic assessment should be considered for hypotension that is refractory to treatment. Management guidelines continue to be opinion- and consensus-based, with retrospective studies accounting for the vast majority of clinical research papers on the topic. The clinical spectrum of anaphylaxis including major disease subgroups requires clarification, and validated scoring systems and outcome measures are needed to enable good-quality prospective observational studies and randomized controlled trials. A systematic approach with multicentre collaboration is required to improve our understanding and management of this disease.

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