Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor associated angioedema was detected in 39 subjects (17%) of 231 consecutive patients examined in the last 5 years at our out-patient clinic for symptoms of angioedema without urticaria. In these patients, angioedema was most commonly localized to the face. The duration of ACE-inhibitor treatment at the onset of angioedema ranged from 1 day to 8 years with a median of 6 months. The time elapsed between onset of angioedema and withdrawal of ACE-inhibitor ranged from 1 day to 10 years with a median of 10 months. Delayed diagnosis is explained by the unusual characteristics of this adverse reaction: angioedema may start years after beginning the treatment and then it recurs irregularly. In fact, ACE-inhibitors seem to facilitate angioedema in predisposed subjects, rather than causing it with an allergic or idiosyncratic mechanism. Thus, while Cl-inhibitor levels are usually normal in subjects developing ACE-inhibitor-dependent angioedema, we found that ACE-inhibitors caused angioedema in Cl-inhibitor-deficient patients. Because the main inactivator of bradykinin is kininase II, which is identical with ACE, it is believed that bradykinin mediates ACE-inhibitor-dependent angioedema. We had the possibility to examine the plasma bradykinin levels in one ACE-inhibitor-treated patient during an angioedema attack and we found very high levels, but we did not find an increase of break-down products of high-molecular-weight-kininogen as observed during acute attacks in hereditary angioedema. Bradykinin fell to normal levels during remission after withdrawal of the drug. These observations indicate that in ACE-inhibitor-induced angioedema, contrary to hereditary angioedema, the reduction of bradykinin catabolic rate plays a predominant role.
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