Acute angioedema: recognition and management in the emergency department

Eur J Emerg Med. 2013 Feb;20(1):10-7. doi: 10.1097/MEJ.0b013e328356f76e.


Angioedema is characterized by localized swelling of subcutaneous tissues or mucosa of the upper respiratory or gastrointestinal tract. Laryngeal involvement may threaten airway patency and can be fatal if not addressed promptly. There are several distinct subtypes of angioedema, caused by different pathological processes involving a range of proinflammatory mediators. In the emergency department, it is essential not only that acute angioedema is identified as quickly as possible but also that the likely working diagnosis is established so that the most effective treatment may be administered to resolve potentially life-threatening swelling. In this paper, we present an overview of the various types of angioedema, and offer a practical diagnostic and therapeutic approach to their management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Algorithms
  • Angioedema / complications
  • Angioedema / diagnosis*
  • Angioedema / therapy*
  • Angioedemas, Hereditary / diagnosis
  • Angioedemas, Hereditary / therapy
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Bradykinin / pharmacology
  • Cell Degranulation
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Diseases / complications
  • Mast Cells / immunology
  • Mast Cells / physiology
  • Vasodilator Agents / pharmacology


  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Bradykinin