Anaphylaxis From Ethylene Oxide-Sterilized Dialysis Tubing and Needles: A Case Report

Am J Kidney Dis. 2023 Jan 21;S0272-6386(23)00040-9. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2022.12.004. Online ahead of print.


Hypersensitivity reactions to ethylene oxide-sterilized dialyzers have been well described. Although ethylene oxide is no longer used to sterilize most dialyzers, it is used on other pieces of dialysis equipment. We present a case of a 78-year-old man who experienced dialysis-related anaphylaxis attributed to an IgE-mediated allergy to dialysis tubing and needles sterilized with ethylene oxide. Shortly after transitioning from a tunneled catheter to an arteriovenous fistula, he developed multiple episodes of intradialytic hypotension and syncope within minutes of starting dialysis. Laboratory evaluation revealed marked leukocytosis, eosinophilia, and elevated anti-ethylene oxide IgE antibody. After pretreatment with corticosteroids and antihistamines, the rinsing of dialysis tubing, and transition of access back to a tunneled catheter, he tolerated subsequent dialysis treatments. Review of his history revealed chronic eosinophilia since the time of hemodialysis initiation. We hypothesize his eosinophilia and mast cell degranulation began upon initial exposure to ethylene oxide and hemodialysis equipment. When use of the arteriovenous fistula was resumed, he was exposed to a higher "dose" of ethylene oxide due to the use of needles. The higher antigenic stimuli triggered a memory immune response, leading to mast cell degranulation and repeated anaphylactic episodes that were overcome by minimization of ethylene oxide-sterilized equipment, corticosteroid pretreatment, and the anti-IgE Fc monoclonal omalizumab.

Publication types

  • Case Reports