What Does a Red Meat Allergy Have to Do With Anesthesia? Perioperative Management of Alpha-Gal Syndrome

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Abstract

Over the past decade, there has been a growing awareness of a new allergic syndrome known as alpha-gal allergy or alpha-gal syndrome, commonly recognized as a red meat allergy. We performed a review of the literature to identify articles that provide both background on this syndrome in general and any reports of reactions to medications or medical devices related to alpha-gal syndrome. Alpha-gal syndrome results from IgE to the oligosaccharide galactose-α-1,3-galactose, expressed in the meat and tissues of noncatarrhine mammals. It is triggered by the bite of the lone star tick and has been implicated in immediate-onset hypersensitivity to the monoclonal antibody cetuximab and delayed-onset hypersensitivity reactions after the consumption of red meat. There is growing recognition of allergic reactions in these patients to other drugs and medical devices that contain alpha-gal. Many of these reactions result from inactive substances that are part of the manufacturing or preparation process such as gelatin or stearic acid. This allergy may be documented in a variety of ways or informally reported by the patient, requiring vigilance on the part of the anesthesiologist to detect this syndrome, given its serious implications. This allergy presents a number of unique challenges to the anesthesiologist, including proper identification of a patient with alpha-gal syndrome and selection of anesthetic and adjunctive medications that will not trigger this allergy.

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