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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1989 Aug;84(2):168-74.

A comparison of six epicutaneous devices in the performance of immediate hypersensitivity skin testing.

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Department of Pediatrics, National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver 80206.


Six devices commonly used for immediate hypersensitivity epicutaneous skin testing were compared with regard to precision and diagnostic accuracy. Fifteen subjects were tested on the back to 10 mg/ml of histamine phosphate and 50% glycerosaline by prick technique with a smallpox needle (SN), bifurcated needle (BN), Greer "pen" (GP), and blood lancet, and by puncture with the Morrow-Brown needle (MB) and Multi-Test (MT). Five devices were tested in quintuplicate to histamine and once to glycerosaline in each subject; with MT, five histamine and three glycerosaline sites were used. Analysis of the wheal areas obtained with SN, BN, GP, and MB demonstrated comparable degrees of precision (coefficient of variation). The precision of MT was less than the other devices (p less than 0.05). The blood lancet demonstrated intermediate precision. Twenty-two of 45 (49%) of the glycerosaline skin tests performed with MT were falsely positive, significantly more than the other devices (p = 0.0001). We conclude that MB, BN, GP, and SP are comparable devices for use in immediate hypersensitivity skin testing. The low precision and reliability of MT used for testing on the back would appear to make this device less than adequate for diagnostic or research studies. Its high rate of false positive reactions requires caution in interpretation of results when it is used in the clinical diagnosis of allergy.

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