Unnecessary Food Allergy Panel Testing Can Create Burden for Patients
February 3, 2023
April Presnell, Media & Member Communications Manager
Indiscriminate food allergy screenings can lead to increased anxiety and food avoidance in patients, according to research to be presented at the 2023 AAAAI Annual Meeting.
Milwaukee, WI – Inappropriate food IgE testing continues to be overutilized in patients exhibiting chronic, nonspecific symptoms., according to new research being presented at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). “This leads to patients experiencing unnecessary anxiety, and often prompts patients to eliminate foods from their diets that they can safely consume,” said Jenika Ferretti-Gallon, MD, primary author of the study.
Researchers completed a retrospective chart review of 236 pediatric patients with food allergy testing at a single institution. They found that 76% of testing was performed due to non-IgE mediated symptoms including chronic abdominal pain and behavioral issues.
Researchers predicted an electronic medical record (EMR) intervention could reduce orders for food allergy panels. The EMR was implemented in February 2021 to provide a hard-stop alert when food allergy panels were ordered and instead recommend targeted testing. Researchers did a retrospective chart review of patients in UC Davis-affiliated outpatient clinics who had food allergy panels ordered 12 months before the EMR intervention and compared them to charts from after the EMR intervention.
After reviewing 318 charts, researchers found that post-intervention, 98 food allergy panels were ordered, which amounted to a reduction of 55.5% compared to before the intervention. Before the intervention, 18.3+/-7.2 food panels were ordered per month compared to 8.1+/- 1.8 after the intervention was initiated. Only 25 patients total (7.9%) exhibited symptoms consistent with IgE-mediated food allergy. Despite the finding that the large majority of patients both pre- and post- intervention presented with non IgE-mediated symptoms, this testing was still used in some patients as a directive for elimination of foods. These findings indicate a significant need and opportunity for improved education for our patients and health care providers.
“We hope these results will demonstrate that food allergy panels are being overused and can actually cause patient harm,” said Dr. Ferretti-Gallon. “Proper food allergy diagnosis is essential for our patients’ physical and mental well-being.”
Visit aaaai.org to learn more about food allergies. Research presented at the AAAAI Annual Meeting, February 24-27 in San Antonio, Texas, is published in an online supplement to The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) is the leading membership organization of more than 7,100 allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. The AAAAI is the go-to resource for patients living with allergies, asthma and immune deficiency disorders. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 7,100 members in the United States, Canada and 72 other countries. The AAAAI’s Find an Allergist/Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.