What are less common adverse effects of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG)?

Updated: Jul 05, 2018
  • Author: Jessica Katz, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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IVIG can induce reactions in patients with IgA deficiency. This occurs in 1 in 500-1000 patients. Serious anaphylactoid reactions occur soon after the administration of IVIG. Anaphylaxis associated with sensitization to IgA in patients with IgA deficiency can be prevented by using IgA-depleted immune globulin. The presence of IgG anti-IgA antibodies is not always associated with severe adverse reactions to IVIG. [6]

Pompholyx (dyshidrotic eczema) and eczematous reactions have been linked to IVIG therapy. [46]

An uncommon but potentially irreversible adverse event is acute renal failure. From June 1985 to November 1998, the US Food and Drug Administration received 120 reports worldwide, 88 in the United States, of renal injury. Acute renal failure with IVIG therapy occurs with the sucrose-stabilized formulation, but not with the D-sorbitol–stabilized formulation.

IVIG is associated with rare cases of thrombosis. It has caused disseminated intravascular coagulation, transient serum sickness, and transient neutropenia.

One study reported 7 patients who had thromboembolic events while being treated with IVIG. [47] Four patients had strokes or transient ischemic attacks, 1 had an inferior wall myocardial infarction, 1 developed deep venous thrombosis, and 1 had a retinal artery infarct. The age range of the patients was 57-81 years, and most had underlying risk factors such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, atrial fibrillation, history of vascular disease and stroke, and deep venous thrombosis. Three patients received multiple IVIG infusions before developing the thromboembolic complications. Therefore, clinicians should be vigilant about the possibility of thromboembolic complications with each IVIG infusion and should be especially judicious with the use of IVIG in patients with underlying risk factors.

Life-threatening human parvovirus B19 infection and hepatitis C have been transmitted by IVIG.

Severe cutaneous vasculitis has been reported following an intravenous infusion of gammaglobulin in a patient with type II mixed cryoglobulinemia.

IVIG can precipitate acute myocardial infarction.

Aseptic meningitis is a rare but well-recognized complication of IVIG therapy. It manifests as fever, neck stiffness, headache, confusion, nausea, and vomiting.

IVIG therapy can result in postinfusion hyperproteinemia, increased serum viscosity, and pseudohyponatremia.

IVIG should not be given to patients with sensitivity to thimerosal.

IVIG has caused eczematous dermatitis and alopecia.

Complement consumption associated with an eczematous cutaneous reaction has been noted during infusions of high doses of IVIG.

Orbach et al noted encouraging reports on the efficacy of IVIG in different types of glomerulonephritis (mainly lupus nephritis) resistant to conventional therapy, but the exact success rate and clinical indications remain undetermined. However, the issue of IVIG treatment and renal function is a 2-edged sword because nephrotoxicity can be a serious rare complication of IVIG therapy. Products containing sucrose as a stabilizer are mainly associated with such injury through the mechanism of osmotic nephrosis. Preexisting renal disease, volume depletion, and old age are risk factors for such toxicity. [48]

Use of IVIG has been linked to two cases of stroke. [49]

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