Modern Preoperative and Intraoperative Management of Hereditary Angioedema

Allergy Asthma Proc. May-Jun 2009;30(3):338-42. doi: 10.2500/aap.2009.30.3225. Epub 2009 Apr 14.


Hereditary angioedema (HAE), deficiency of C1 esterase inhibitor, poses a risk of airway compromise during trauma, including surgery, due to activation of the complement cascade. Classical surgical management includes emergent/slash tracheostomy and cricothyrotomy, associated with high complication rates. We provide here an evidence-based review of available medical literature to construct guidelines for managing patients with HAE pre- and intra-operatively. We also describe our experience with a patient for whom we cared using these guidelines. Our objective was to explain new preventive measures to prevent airway compromise in HAE and their level of evidence for averting potential therapeutic misadventure. We analyzed PUBMED literature regarding airway management and etiology of angioedema and its prevention, followed by application of guidelines based on these data in a patient with HAE undergoing inguinal hernia repair. An analysis of contemporary literature yielded key points: (1) using a Cook Exchange catheter to facilitate re-intubation, (2) measuring cuff leak pressure to verify whether airway pressure had increased during surgery, (3) visualizing the airway directly using a fiberoptic laryngoscope connected to a digital flat-screen monitor for real-time assessment, (4) following conventional dictum to double stanozolol dosages 2 weeks before admission, (5) administering fresh frozen plasma pre- and intraoperatively, and (6) preparing recombinant C1 esterase inhibitor for instantaneous intraoperative use; and using FDA-approved human-derived C1-esterase inhibitor prophylactically. Biotechnology in the form of novel but currently available and in-practice medical devices, as well as new therapeutic agents, have expanded the armamentarium for safely managing patients with HAE pre- and intraoperatively.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angioedemas, Hereditary / drug therapy*
  • Angioedemas, Hereditary / surgery
  • Complement C1 Inhibitor Protein / administration & dosage
  • Complement C1 Inhibitor Protein / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use*


  • Complement C1 Inhibitor Protein
  • Recombinant Proteins