Inaccurate diagnosis of paediatric anaphylaxis in three Australian Emergency Departments

Hector Thomson, Robert Seith, Simon Craig

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To determine the accuracy of emergency department (ED) paediatric anaphylaxis diagnosis, and to identify factors associated with misdiagnosis. Methods: Retrospective chart review of children aged 0–18 years with allergic presentations to three Victorian EDs in 2014. Cases were included if an ED diagnosis of anaphylaxis was recorded, or the presentation met international consensus criteria for anaphylaxis. Results: Of the 60 143 paediatric ED presentations during the study period, 1551 allergy-related presentations were identified and reviewed. One hundred and eighty-seven met consensus criteria for anaphylaxis, and another 24 were diagnosed with anaphylaxis without meeting criteria. Of the 211 presentations, 105 cases were given an ED diagnosis of anaphylaxis and 106 cases were given an alternative diagnosis in ED. ED assessment had a sensitivity of 43.2% (95% confidence interval (CI) 36.1–50.7%) and specificity of 97.9% (95% CI 96.9–98.7%) for anaphylaxis. Multiple logistic regression demonstrated that an ED anaphylaxis diagnosis was associated with previous anaphylaxis (odds ratio (OR) 3.20; 95% CI 1.52–6.75), arrival by ambulance (OR 2.80; 95% CI 1.36–5.74), a high-acuity triage category (OR 4.51; 95% CI 2.20–9.25) and presentation to a tertiary hospital (OR 2.86; 95% CI 1.44–5.67). ED diagnosis of anaphylaxis was less likely in those with resolution of symptoms and signs in at least one organ system prior to arrival (OR 0.27; 95% CI 0.12–0.62). Conclusion: In children with allergic presentations, ED assessment has a low sensitivity but high specificity for anaphylaxis. Attention to resolved pre-hospital symptoms and awareness of diagnostic criteria are important considerations for accurate ED diagnosis of anaphylaxis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-704
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • allergy
  • anaphylaxis
  • diagnosis
  • emergency department
  • paediatrics

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