Intradermal skin testing (IDST) is performed by most allergists, but its value remains controversial. In most previous studies assessing the value of IDST, a positive result was based on a 5- to 6-mm wheal and erythema. While a subject's immediate reaction upon allergen exposure is a common endpoint to determine “allergy,” additional known allergic phenomena such as the delayed or late-phase response to allergen exposure suggest that correlation only with current history or acute challenge may result in an incorrect labeling of false-positive results when, in fact, there is a physiologic response to exposure, albeit a reaction not immediately evident. We conducted a retrospective study to determine if positive IDST reactions represent nonspecific irritation or if they correlate with atopy. We retrospectively reviewed the records of 100 patients who had undergone skin prick testing (SPT) and IDST and compiled data on their age, sex, diagnosis, and number of skin and intradermal reactions. Results were analyzed according to a general linear model to see if the development of a positive IDST result correlated with atopy (defined as SPT positivity). We found statistically significant differences between SPT-positive and -negative patients with regard to diagnoses of asthma, rhinitis, or both (p = 0.008). Controlling for asthma and rhinitis, we also found a significant association between atopy and a positive IDST result; among atopic (SPT+) patients, a mean of 25.9% of IDST results were positive, compared with a rate of only 6.7% IDST positivity among the nonatopic (SPT-) patients (p < 0.0001). We conclude that IDST is more commonly positive in atopic (SPT+) than nonatopic (SPT-) patients, suggesting that a positive IDST represents genuine atopy and bona fide sensitization rather than nonspecific irritation.
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