Role of mast cells, basophils and their mediators in adverse reactions to general anesthetics and radiocontrast media

Arturo Genovese, Cristiana Stellato, Carlo Vincenzo Marsella, Monika Adt, Gianni Marone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


General anesthetics and radiocontrast media (RCM) can cause anaphylactic or anaphylactoid reactions. These are usually underdiagnosed and underreported, but their incidence is apparently rising. Their pathogenesis is complex and not completely understood, but the release of vasoactive mediators from basophils and mast cells plays a central role. The recent development of in vitro techniques to study the release of preformed (histamine and tryptase) and de novo synthesized mediators (PGD2, LTC4, and PAF) from purified basophils and mast cells has made it possible to quantify the mediator-releasing activity of anesthetics such as muscle relaxants, general anesthetics, opioids, and benzodiazepines and RCM on human basophils and mast cells isolated from lung, skin and heart tissues. The majority of general anesthetics and RCM tested induced only the release of preformed mediators (histamine and tryptase), not of the de novo synthesized eicosanoids. There was wide variability in the response of basophils and mast cells from different donors to the same drug or RCM, presumably due to the releasability parameter. Hyperosmolality is probably not the only factor responsible for basophil and mast cell activation by RCM. The in vitro release of histamine induced by anesthetic drugs and RCM was correlated with the release of tryptase. Given the longer half-life of tryptase than histamine in plasma, measurements of plasma tryptase may become a useful diagnostic tool for identifying adverse reactions to anesthetics and RCM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-22
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Archives of Allergy and Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Anesthetics
  • Basophils
  • Contrast media
  • Histamine
  • Mast cells
  • Tryptase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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