Critical Care Management of the Patient With Anaphylaxis: A Concise Definitive Review

Crit Care Med. 2021 May 1;49(5):838-857. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000004893.


Objectives: Anaphylaxis is a rapidly progressive life-threatening syndrome manifesting as pruritus, urticaria, angioedema, bronchospasm and shock. The goal of this synthetic review is to provide a practical, updated approach to the evaluation and management of this disorder and associated complications.

Data sources: A MEDLINE search was conducted with the MeSH of anaphylaxis, anaphylactic reaction, anaphylactic shock, refractory anaphylaxis and subheadings of diagnosis, classification, epidemiology, complications and pharmacology. The level of evidence supporting an intervention was evaluated based on the availability of randomized studies, expert opinion, case studies, reviews, practice parameters and other databases (including Cochrane).

Study selection: Selected publications describing anaphylaxis, clinical trials, diagnosis, mechanisms, risk factors and management were retrieved (reviews, guidelines, clinical trials, case series) and their bibliographies were also reviewed to identify relevant publications.

Data extraction: Data from the relevant publications were reviewed, summarized and the information synthesized.

Data synthesis: This is a synthetic review and the data obtained from a literature review was utilized to describe current trends in the diagnosis and management of the patient with anaphylaxis with a special emphasis on newer evolving concepts of anaphylaxis endotypes and phenotypes, management of refractory anaphylaxis in the ICU setting and review of therapeutic options for the elderly patient, or the complicated patient with severe cardiorespiratory complications. Most of the recommendations come from practice parameters, case studies or expert opinions, with a dearth of randomized trials to support specific interventions.

Conclusion: Anaphylaxis is a rapidly progressive life-threatening disorder. The critical care physician needs to be familiar with the diagnosis, differential diagnosis, evaluation, and management of anaphylaxis. Skilled intervention in ICUs may be required for the patient with complicated, severe, or refractory anaphylaxis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaphylaxis / drug therapy
  • Anaphylaxis / therapy*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Life Support Care / methods


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Glucocorticoids