Management of upper airway edema caused by hereditary angioedema

Hereditary angioedema is a rare disorder with a genetic background involving mutations in the genes encoding C1-INH and of factor XII. Its etiology is unknown in a proportion of cases. Recurrent edema formation may involve the subcutis and the submucosa – the latter can produce obstruction in the upper airways and thereby lead to life-threatening asphyxia. This is the reason for the high, 30-to 50-per-cent mortality of undiagnosed or improperly managed cases. Airway obstruction can be prevented through early diagnosis, meaningful patient information, timely recognition of initial symptoms, state-of-the-art emergency therapy, and close monitoring of the patient. Prophylaxis can substantially mitigate the risk of upper airway edema and also improve the patients’ quality of life. Notwithstanding the foregoing, any form of upper airway edema should be regarded as a potentially life-threatening condition. None of the currently available prophylactic modalities is capable of preventing UAE with absolute certainty.

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