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Anesthesia and Anaphylaxis



I suffer from anaphylaxis and have had one near fatal event. My primary doc urges me to have a colonoscopy, but I`m fearful of suffering an event via potential allergy to the anesthetic used for colonoscopy. What is your opinion, and what is the common anesthetic used for colonoscopy? My specific allergen is shellfish/shrimp. Before my event in 2007 I had several colonoscopies, with the most recent in 2001. I am 75 years of age, with no personal or family history of colon disease, nor anything discovered in my earlier colonoscopies, which were done merely as a precaution.

Thanks very much.


Anaphylaxis is the name for a severe allergic reaction, which can be life-threatening.

If you've had an anaphylactic reaction to a specific "allergen", not multiple allergens, there is little to fear from anesthesia. There is no overlap or "cross-reactivity" between shellfish allergy and allergy to any of the commonly used anesthetic medications, like propofol, fentanyl and midazolam.

If you do happen to have an allergic reaction of some sort, the hospital, with an anesthesiologist in attendance, is the best place to be for quick diagnosis and effective treatment. Much better than your local seafood restaurant anyway!

Most colonoscopies are done as a precaution, and fortunately don't have to be done very often, but if you are due for one, a shellfish/shrimp allergy is not a good reason to avoid it. Be sure to tell your anesthesiologist about your concerns, so he or she can reassure you but also be alerted for any possible allergic problems along the way.

For more information:

Go to the Anesthesia health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Gareth S Kantor, MD Gareth S Kantor, MD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University