Objective: To assess the safety of using angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) in patients who develop angioedema with the use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs).
Data sources: A literature search was performed using MEDLINE (1977-January 2011) and Cochrane Library, using the terms angiotensin receptor blocker, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, and angioedema. In addition, reference citations from publications identified were reviewed.
Study selection and data extraction: Only English-language publications were included. Randomized controlled trial data, observational studies (retrospective and prospective), and case reports on adults who received ACEI therapy and then an ARB as an alternative therapy were reviewed.
Data synthesis: Two randomized controlled trials and 1 meta-analysis evaluated ARB use in patients intolerant to ACEIs. Taken together, there is a conservative estimate of a 10% or less incidence of cross reactivity of angioedema in patients who receive an ARB after experiencing ACEI-associated angioedema. Angioedema related to ARBs is reported to be less severe and occurs earlier compared to angioedema that develops during ACEI therapy.
Conclusions: ARBs may be an alternative for patients who develop angioedema while using an ACEI but should be reserved for patients with high therapeutic need for angiotensin inhibition. Treatment should be started with observation, patients should be educated on the signs of angioedema, and proper emergency management should be emphasized to patients and care providers.