Getting Answers

After her third episode of anaphylactic shock and numerous doctor visits without any explanation as to why, a 21-year-old woman from New York turned to Dr. Bradley Benson at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in search of answers.

Throughout the six months that her three attacks occurred, doctors were baffled by her test results. She got bloodwork done and multiple tests on her heart, which all came back normal. She is severely allergic to nuts, but after reassuring her allergist that she was not exposed to any nuts, he couldn’t identify a trigger. 

Dr. Benson specializes in medicine and pediatrics. He is known for solving tough cases and he organizes a ‘diagnostic flash mob’ to help. Dr. Benson told The New York Times Magazine that after he received the woman’s paperwork, he invited his colleagues “to help him think through the case.”

After hearing from his colleagues and doing tests of his own, he put together a list of all the possibilities and how likely each one was. “At the top of that list were diseases of mast-cell proliferation,” Dr. Benson told The NYT Magazine.

Mast cells are what cause allergic reactions, and at their worst, they can cause anaphylaxis. Dr. Benson thought that the woman may have systemic mastocytosis, an unusual disorder caused by an overabundance of mast cells.

Following her next episode, they were able to test her histamine and tryptase levels, which came back extremely high, indicating that Dr. Benson was correct with his diagnosis. 

Dr. Benson gave this woman answers when no one else could. Because of Dr. Benson and his team, this woman now has her mast cells under control and she hasn’t had another attack since. 

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