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Pitfalls in anaphylaxis diagnosis and management at a university emergency department

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Some previous reports revealed suboptimal management of anaphylaxis (ANX) in the emergency department (ED).


To evaluate the recorded diagnosis and management of patients who presented with ANX at our university hospital ED and to assess how the management correlated with the severity of the case and the training level of the ED staff.


A descriptive study that involved reviewing the electronic medical records of patients who presented with ANX at the ED during a period of 4 years.


When reviewing 1341 charts of potential cases, 60 met the criteria for ANX, but only 23% were correctly coded. Inaccurate coding was noted in 77%, mainly as an “allergic reaction.” Systemic corticosteroids were administered in the ED to 85% of the patients and H1-antihistamines to 73%; only 20% received epinephrine. Ten patients required hospital admission, and, on discharge, only four patients (40%) were given epinephrine autoinjector prescriptions. Of the 50 who were discharged home, 48% were given epinephrine autoinjector prescriptions and 16% were given a referral for allergy evaluation.


The observed low rates of appropriate diagnostic coding of ANX, of epinephrine administration, epinephrine autoinjector prescribing at discharge, and referral for allergy evaluation call for more education on these issues. Some of these pitfalls can be partly attributed to the setting in a university ED where health providers are usually busy in rendering urgent care.
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Keywords: Anaphylaxis; ICD coding; allergy referral; emergency department; emergency medicine; epinephrine; epinephrine autoinjectors

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: From the Allergy/Immunology Section, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, Louisiana 2: Emergency Medicine Department, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, Louisiana 3: Medicine Department, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, Louisiana

Publication date: 01 July 2018

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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