Anaesthesia, surgery, and life-threatening allergic reactions: management and outcomes in the 6th National Audit Project (NAP6)

N. J.N. Harper, T. M. Cook*, T. Garcez, D. N. Lucas, M. Thomas, H. Kemp, K. L. Kong, S. Marinho, S. Karanam, K. Ferguson, J. Hitchman, H. Torevell, A. Warner, W. Egner, S. Nasser, N. McGuire, M. Bellamy, K. Floss, L. Farmer, S. Farooque

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Anaphylaxis during anaesthesia is a serious complication for patients and anaesthetists. There is little published information on management and outcomes of perioperative anaphylaxis in the UK. Methods: The 6th National Audit Project of the Royal College of Anaesthetists (NAP6) collected and reviewed 266 reports of Grade 3–5 anaphylaxis from all UK NHS hospitals over 1 yr. Quality of management was assessed against published guidelines. Results: Appropriately senior anaesthetists resuscitated all patients. Immediate management was ‘good’ in 46% and ‘poor’ in 15%. Recognition and treatment of anaphylaxis were prompt in 97% and 83% of cases, respectively. Epinephrine was administered i.v. in 76%, i.m. in 14%, both in 6%, and not at all in 11% of cases. A catecholamine infusion was administered in half of cases. Cardiac arrests (40 cases; 15%) were promptly treated but cardiac compressions were omitted in half of patients with unrecordable BP. The surgical procedure was abandoned in most cases, including 10% where surgery was urgent. Of 54% admitted to critical care, 70% were level 3, with most requiring catecholamine infusions. Ten (3.8%) patents (mostly elderly with cardiovascular disease) died from anaphylaxis. Corticosteroids and antihistamines were generally administered early. We found no clear evidence of harm or benefit from chlorphenamine. Two patients received vasopressin and one glucagon. Fluid administration was inadequate in 19% of cases. Treatment included sugammadex in 19 cases, including one when rocuronium had not been administered. Adverse sequelae (psychological, cognitive, or physical) were reported in one-third of cases. Conclusions: Management of perioperative anaphylaxis could be improved, especially with respect to administration of epinephrine, cardiac compressions, and i.v. fluid. Sequelae were common.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-188
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Anaesthesia
Issue number1
Early online date21 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • allergy
  • anaesthesia
  • anaphylaxis
  • outcome
  • perioperative


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