Q: Our teenage daughter with egg and soy allergies has to have surgery. I’ve been told that the drug propofol used in anesthesia contains both egg and soy. Is that correct, and should I be concerned about allergic reactions to anesthesia?
Dr. Sharma: Propofol is mixed in a liquid which contains soybean oil and egg lecithin (a fatty substrate).
For people like your daughter, who have soy or egg allergies, they are allergic to the proteins in these foods. They are not allergic to the oils or fats.
While in theory soy oil and egg lecithin might contain trace amounts of protein, there are no reports in the medical literature of any anesthesia allergic reactions caused by these ingredients.
Allergic Reactions to Propofol
That said, there have been reports of allergic reactions to propofol in medical literature. But none of these anesthesia reactions appear to be related to soy or egg allergies.
Therefore, the general recommendation is that patients who require anesthesia with soy or egg allergy can receive propofol.
But be sure to check with your daughter’s allergist to discuss her particular case, anesthesia and how to proceed.
Dr. Sharma is an allergist, clinical researcher and associate professor of pediatrics. He is Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. and Director of the Food Allergy Program. He co-authors “The Food Allergy Experts” column in Allergic Living’s e-magazine. Questions submitted will be considered for answer in the e-magazine.