What is Aspirin Desensitization?

Aspirin desensitization is an effective therapy that treats the underlying cause of AERD, compared to solely medications and repeated surgical sinus procedures that only suppress symptoms.

The procedure consists of introducing gradually increasing doses of aspirin in a controlled medical environment, beginning first with a nasal spray formulation of an NSAID and then progressing to oral aspirin. The doses are then slowly increased over two days until the full dose is reached and then you are considered desensitized.

Penn's Coordinated Approach to Care

women with doctor

Treating the Cause, Not Just Symptoms

Because AERD treatment requires complex, individualized care for optimal results, Medical Director John V. Bosso, MD and Surgical Director Nithin D. Adappa, MD work in close communication — discussing each patient throughout care and at the center's regular multidisciplinary conference. It is with this coordination of medical and surgical treatment options — often during the same appointment — that Penn is able to deliver exceptional care for those with AERD.

What To Expect

Patients who have AERD (asthma, nasal polyps/chronic sinusitis and reactions to aspirin and other NSAIDs) often find relief following aspirin desensitization.

Benefits of treatment:

  • Decreased nasal congestion 
  • Fewer nasal polyps 
  • Less medication (especially steroids like prednisone) to control polyps and asthma 
  • Fewer sinus surgeries 
  • Reduced asthma attacks 
  • Less sinus infections 
  • Improved sense of smell 
  • Improved quality of life

Risks and Outcomes

Safety

Even if you previously had a severe reaction to aspirin/ NSAIDs, aspirin desensitization can be performed safely. Throughout the procedure, your doctor will be continuously monitoring your condition and a nurse will be with you the entire time. Breathing tests, pulse oximetry (measuring oxygen levels by placing a device on your finger) and vital signs are frequently performed and an intravenous line (I.V.) will be placed into your arm so that medications can be given if needed. As soon as you begin to have symptoms, you will be given treatment to quickly and effectively reverse the reaction. Many patients do not experience anything more than minor symptoms.

How Long Will The Procedure Take?

Desensitization to aspirin is usually accomplished in a two day period. Infrequently, a third day is necessary. After each session, patients are allowed to go home for the day. They must return the next morning until the procedure is completed.

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