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Clin Dermatol. 2010 Jan-Feb;28(1):38-44. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2009.03.008.

The diagnostic value of atopy patch testing and prick testing in atopic dermatitis: facts and controversies.

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  • 1University Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Zagreb University Hospital Center and School of Medicine, Salata 4, 1000 Zagreb, Croatia.


We conducted a systematic Medline search of the literature (1998-2008) on the criteria for performing the skin prick test and atopy patch testing (APT) to determine their utility in atopic dermatitis (AD). The skin prick, scratch, and skin patch tests are performed to identify which allergen is causing eczematous skin symptoms in patients with AD, or sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, wheezing, skin rash, and swelling. Many allergens in foods, drugs, and environmental substances (eg, ragweed and fungus), as well as contact allergens, can elicit eczematous skin reactions after epicutaneous application. Because no gold standard exists for aeroallergen provocation in AD, the APT is currently used to evaluate allergen without comparison with another accurate and reliable method. The APT is presumed to reflect delayed-phase clinical reactions. Even with delayed onset of symptoms (more than 2 hours after food ingestion), APT findings were not consistent among AD children. The APT could be used in children with gastrointestinal reactions to foods as well as AD. After standardization, the APT may provide further diagnostic information in addition to the skin prick test and serum immunoglobulin E values and may be able to evaluate the actual clinical relevance of immunoglobulin E-mediated sensitizations for eczematous lesions. The European APT model used with standardization of allergen concentration and vehicle may provide an important diagnostic tool to select patients for avoidance and for procedures of allergen-specific immunotherapy, but the clinical relevance of positive APT reactions awaits standardized provocation and avoidance testing.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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