Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) is an effective treatment for allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. However, adverse events, including life-threatening systemic reactions, may occur. The purpose of this project is to identify risk factors for systemic reactions to SCIT and to provide practice-based solutions using a quality improvement (QI) framework.
A QI initiative was performed in a hospital-based, Canadian Allergy clinic administering SCIT in a 12-month period.
A total of 4242 injections of SCIT were performed over a period of 12 months. Of these, 10 injections resulted in a systemic reaction requiring epinephrine administration (i.e., an incidence of 1 in 424 injections, or 0.24%). Eight patients had at least one documented risk factor for a systemic reaction, and six had multiple risk factors. Major risk factors included seasonal exacerbation of allergic rhinitis, uncontrolled asthma, and an error in route of administration. All reactions occurred with the highest allergen extract concentration.
This QI initiative highlights the need for improved patient and health care practitioner education and pre-administration screening. We suggest several considerations for SCIT administration: provide patients with written information on safety; screen patients before injections, including a review of treatment plan adherence and asthma control; adjust dosing to slow down buildup of the most concentrated immunotherapy extract, particularly in high risk patients; and apply additional safety measures in patients with multiple risk factors.