Pathophysiology of hereditary angioedema

BACKGROUND: Laryngeal angioedema may be associated with significant morbidity and even mortality. Because of the potential severity of attacks, both allergists and otolaryngologists must be knowledgeable about the recognition and treatment of laryngeal angioedema. This study describes the clinical characteristics and pathophysiology of bradykinin-mediated angioedema.

METHODS: A literature review was conducted concerning the clinical characteristics and pathophysiology of types I and II hereditary angioedema (HAE), type III HAE, acquired C1 inhibitor (C1INH) deficiency, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor-associated angioedema.

RESULTS: The diagnosis of type I/II HAE is relatively straightforward as long as the clinician maintains a high index of suspicion. Mutations in the SERPING1 gene result in decreased secretion of functional C1INH and episodic activation of plasma kallikrein and Hageman factor (FXII) of the plasma contact system with cleavage of high molecular weight kininogen and generation of bradykinin. In contrast, there are no unequivocal criteria for making a diagnosis of type III HAE, although a minority of these patients may have a mutation in the factor XII gene. Angioedema attacks and mediator of swelling in acquired C1INH deficiency are similar to those in type I or II HAE; however, it occurs on a sporadic basis because of excessive consumption of C1INH in patients who are middle aged or older. ACE inhibitor-associated angioedema should always be considered in any patient taking an ACE inhibitor who experiences angioedema. ACE is a kininase, which when inhibited is thought to result in increased bradykinin levels. Bradykinin acts on vascular endothelial cells to enhance vascular permeability.

CONCLUSION: Laryngeal swelling is not infrequently encountered in bradykinin-mediated angioedema. Novel therapies are becoming available that for the first time provide effective treatment for bradykinin-mediated angioedema. Because the characteristics and treatment of these angioedemas are quite distinct from each other and from histamine-mediated angioedema, it is crucial that the physician be able to recognize and distinguish these swelling disorders.

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