Purpose of review: Hereditary angioedema is an autosomal-dominant deficiency of C1 inhibitor--a serpin inhibitor of kallikrein, C1r, C1s, factor XII, and plasmin. Quantitative or qualitative deficiency of C1 inhibitor leads to the generation of vasoactive mediators, most likely bradykinin. The clinical syndrome is repeated bouts of nonpruritic, nonpitting edema of the face, larynx, extermities, and intestinal viscera. Recently, investigators, physicians, and industry have demonstrated a renewed interest in the biology and treatment of hereditary angioedema.
Recent findings: Investigators have generated a C1INH-/- mouse model that has demonstrated the importance of the contact activation system for hereditary angioedema-related vascular permeability. An interactive database of mutations is available electronically. Investigators have continued exploration into mRNA/protein levels. The proceedings of a recent workshop have been impressive in the scope and depth. Clinicians have produced consensus documents and expert reviews. The pharmaceutical industry has initiated clinical trails with novel agents.
Summary: Hereditary angioedema is often misdiagnosed and poorly treated. Diagnosis requires careful medical and family history and the measurement of functional C1 inhibitor and C4 levels. Attenuated androgens, anti-fibrinolytics, and C1 inhibitor concentrates are used for long-term and preprocedure prophylaxis, but have significant drawbacks. C1 inhibitor concentrates and fresh frozen plasma are available for acute intervention. The mainstays of supportive care are airway monitoring, pain relief, hydration, and control of nausea. New agents such as recombinant C1 inhibitor, kallikrein inhibitors, and bradykinin inhibitors may offer safer and more tolerable treatments.