The role of the atopy patch test in the diagnostic work-up of non-IgE gastrointestinal food allergy in children: a systematic review

Eur J Pediatr. 2023 Aug;182(8):3419-3431. doi: 10.1007/s00431-023-04994-2. Epub 2023 May 30.


The "Atopy Patch Test" (APT) has been proposed as a diagnostic tool for food allergies (FA), especially in children with FA-related gastrointestinal symptoms. However, its diagnostic accuracy is debated, and its usefulness is controversial. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the APT diagnostic accuracy compared with the diagnostic gold standard, i.e., the oral food challenge (OFC), in children affected by non-IgE mediated gastrointestinal food allergies, including the evaluation in milk allergic subgroup. Both classical non-IgE mediated clinical pictures and food induced motility disorders (FPIMD) were considered. The search was conducted in PubMed and Scopus from January 2000 to June 2022 by two independent researchers. The patient, intervention, comparators, outcome, and study design approach (PICOS) format was used for developing key questions, to address the APT diagnostic accuracy compared with the oral food challenge (OFC). The quality of the studies was assessed by the QUADAS-2 system. The meta-analysis was performed to calculate the pooled sensitivity, specificity, DOR (diagnostic odds ratio), PLR (positive likelihood ratio), and NLR (negative likelihood ratio) with their 95% confidence intervals (CI). Out of the 457 citations initially identified via the search (196 on PubMed and 261 on Scopus), 37 advanced to full-text screening, and 16 studies were identified to be included in the systematic review. Reference lists from relevant retrievals were searched, and one additional article was added. Finally, 17 studies were included in the systematic review. The analysis showed that APT has a high specificity of 94% (95%CI: 0.88-0.97) in the group of patients affected by FPIMD. Data showed a high pooled specificity of 96% (95% CI: 0.89-0.98) and the highest accuracy of APT in patients affected by cow's milk allergy (AUC = 0.93). Conclusion: APT is effective in identifying causative food in children with food-induced motility disorders. What is Known: • Atopy patch test could be a useful diagnostic test for diagnosing food allergy, especially in children with food allergy-related gastrointestinal symptoms. What is New: • Atopy patch test may be a useful tool in diagnosing non IgE food allergy, especially in children with food-induced gastrointestinal motility disorders and cow's milk allergy.

Keywords: Atopy patch test; Food allergy; Meta-analysis; Motility disorders; Non-IgE mediated food-allergy.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Child
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity* / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate*
  • Milk Hypersensitivity* / complications
  • Milk Hypersensitivity* / diagnosis
  • Patch Tests / adverse effects
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Allergens