Diagnosing Environmental Allergies: Comparison of Skin-Prick, Intradermal, and Serum Specific Immunoglobulin E Testing

Denisa Ferastraoaru, Maria Shtessel, Elizabeth Lobell, Golda Hudes, David Rosenstreich, Gabriele de Vos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Allergists commonly perform intradermal skin testing (IDST) after negative skin-prick testing (SPT) to comprehensively diagnose environmental allergic sensitization. However, with the availability of modern methods to detect serum-specific immunoglobulin E (ssIgE), it is unclear if ssIgE testing could substitute for IDST. Objective: To determine the efficacy of ssIgE testing and IDST when added to SPT in diagnosing environmental allergic sensitizations. Methods: SPT, IDST, and ssIgE testing to nine common environmental allergens were analyzed in 75 patients with oculonasal symptoms who presented to our allergy clinics in the Bronx, New York, between January 2014 and May 2015. Results: A total of 651 SPT and 499 ssIgE tests were independently performed and revealed 162 (25%) and 127 (25%) sensitizations, respectively. When SPT results were negative, IDST results revealed 108 of 452 additional sensitizations (24%). In contrast, when SPT results were negative, ssIgE test results only revealed 9% additional sensitizations. When both SPT and IDST results were negative, ssIgE testing only detected 3% of additional sensitizations, and ssIgE levels were typically low in these cases (median, 1.25 kU/L; range, 0.357–4.47 kU/L). When both SPT and ssIgE test results were negative, IDST results detected 15% additional sensitizations. Conclusion: IDST detected more additional environmental sensitizations compared with ssIgE testing. IDST, therefore, may be useful when the SPT and/or ssIgE testing results were negative, but the exposure history indicated relevant allergic sensitization. Serology added only a little more information if both SPT and IDST results were negative but may be useful in combination with SPT if IDST cannot be performed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAllergy and Rhinology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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