Anaphylactic latex reaction during anaesthesia: the silent culprit in a fatal case

Forensic Sci Int. 2008 Jul 18;179(1):e5-8. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2008.03.021. Epub 2008 May 12.


The true incidence of anaphylactic latex reactions and their associated morbidity and mortality remain poorly defined. It is noteworthy that a number of groups of individuals are at risk for anaphylactic reactions to latex during surgical and medical procedures; one of these groups is represented by the obstetric and gynaecologic population. A case of unrecognized first anaphylactic reaction to latex in a pregnant woman patient who underwent a caesarean section is presented. The diagnosis of latex allergy was missed and the following day the woman underwent a surgical re-exploration complicated by fatal cardiovascular arrest. At post-mortem examination, pulmonary mast cells in the bronchial walls and capillary septa were identified and a great number of degranulating mast cells with tryptase-positive material outside the cells was documented. A post-mortem latex-specific IgE test showed a high titre (14.00 U/I). Latex-induced fatal anaphylactic shock was recorded as the cause of death. This case highlights some of the practical difficulties in the initial diagnosis and subsequent investigation of fatal anaphylactic reaction during anaesthesia. Anaphylaxis is often misdiagnosed because many other pathologic conditions may present identical clinical manifestations, so anaphylactic shock must be differentiated from other causes of circulatory collapse. Although latex allergy usually has a delayed onset after the start of the surgery and most often a slow onset too, it should be always suspected if circulatory collapse and respiratory failure occur during surgery, even if the patient does not belong to a risk group; in the presence of identified risk factors for latex allergy a well-founded suspicion must be stronger, leading to an immediate discontinuation of the potential trigger.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anaphylaxis / etiology*
  • Anesthesia, Spinal
  • Cesarean Section / adverse effects*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest / etiology
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Latex / adverse effects
  • Latex / immunology
  • Latex Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Latex Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Mast Cells / metabolism
  • Platelet Count
  • Pregnancy


  • Hemoglobins
  • Latex
  • Immunoglobulin E