Emergency department evaluation of patients with angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor associated angioedema

Am J Emerg Med. 2020 Dec;38(12):2596-2601. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2019.12.058. Epub 2020 Jan 7.


Introduction: Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACEi) associated angioedema is frequently encountered in the emergency department. Airway management is the primary treatment, but published evidence supporting the decision to intubate patients with this condition is extremely limited.

Method: We performed a retrospective study of all cases of ACEi associated angioedema encountered in a large, urban, tertiary referral emergency department. We classified demographics, duration of symptoms before presentation, physical exam findings and nasopharyngoscopy findings in patients that did and did not require intubation.

Results: We identified a total of 190 separate encounters from 183 unique patients who presented during the 3-year period of the study. Eighteen (9.5%) of these patients required intubation. Patients requiring intubation were more likely to present within 6 h of the onset of angioedema symptoms. Anterior tongue swelling, vocal changes, drooling, and dyspnea were significantly more common in patients requiring intubation. Isolated lip swelling was present in 54% of all patients and was the only finding significantly more common in the group that did not require intubation.

Conclusions: Rapid progression of symptoms within the first 6 h of angioedema onset, anterior tongue swelling, vocal changes, drooling and dyspnea are associated with intubation for ACEi associated angioedema. Isolated lip swelling is significantly more common in patients that do not require intubation. Our data provide risk stratification guidance for providers treating patients with suspected ACEi associated angioedema in the emergency department.

Keywords: Airway management; Angioedema; Angiotension converting enzyme inhibitor; Nasopharyngoscopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Airway Management*
  • Angioedema / chemically induced
  • Angioedema / physiopathology
  • Angioedema / therapy*
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Lip*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sialorrhea / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Tongue*
  • Voice Disorders / physiopathology


  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors