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Angioedema--assessment and treatment.

BACKGROUND: Angioedema has numerous hereditary, acquired and iatrogenic causes. A number of studies show that angioedema is inadequately assessed and treated during its acute phase as well as in the follow-up period. We present an algorithm for the assessment and treatment of patients with angioedema. KNOWLEDGE BASE: The article is based on a literature search in PubMed, a review of bibliographies and the authors' clinical experience and research.

RESULTS: The majority of angioedema patients have accompanying urticaria. Pathophysiologically, angioedemas are divided into histaminergic and non-histaminergic forms. In a large group of patients no positive trigger is identified. On assessment in hospital the most frequently identified cause is drug intake, normally angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors and NSAIDs , while allergic/pseudoallergic and idiopathic reactions are more commonly seen in general practice. There are a number of rare causes of angioedema, all of which are important to keep in mind. The acute and prophylactic treatment will depend on the subtype of angioedema and is best provided through cross-disciplinary collaboration.

INTERPRETATION: Angioedema is a potentially life-threatening condition and should be assessed and treated systematically. It is important to remember that angioedema is either histaminergic or non-histaminergic, as the treatment of the two types is different.

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