Immediate and delayed cutaneous reactions to radiocontrast media.
Hypersensitivity reactions to contrast media (CM) are frequent causes of anaphylaxis and drug exanthemas. Adverse events after CM exposure are classified into immediate (<=1 h) and non-immediate reactions (>1 h), with differing mechanisms. In the majority of patients with immediate reactions, IgE-mediated allergy cannot be demonstrated, and the underlying mechanism remains unknown. However, recent data have provided evidence for skin test positivity and/or specific IgE in some patients. T cell-mediated hypersensitivity is the responsible mechanism for the majority of non-immediate skin eruptions. These insights have consequences for diagnosis and prevention. Skin testing evolves to be a useful tool for diagnosis of CM allergy. Skin tests have been employed to confirm this hypersensitivity. Previous reactors have an increased risk to develop new reactions upon repeated exposure; however, other risk factors are poorly defined. The use of skin tests for the selection of a'safe' CM is under investigation with promising results. In vitro tests to search for CM-specific cell activation include flow cytometric approaches, lymphocyte cultures and construction of cell lines and hybridomas. Premedication of previous reactors is common practice among radiologists; however, breakthrough reactions are a concern, and physicians should not rely on the efficacy of pharmacological premedication.