Acute porphyrias: clinical spectrum of hospitalized patients.

Department of Medicine, Section of Neurology, The Aga Khan University, Karachi.
Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons--Pakistan: JCPSP (Impact Factor: 0.3). 12/2007; 17(11):662-5.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Objective: To determine characteristics, clinical features and triggers of acute porphyria in hospitalized patients presenting to a tertiary care center in Pakistan. Design: Case series. Place and Duration of Study: The Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, from 1988 to 2003. Patients and Methods: Case records of 26 patients hospitalized with diagnosis were identified through computerized hospital patients' data. The diagnosis of acute porphyria was based on pertinent clinical features and laboratory investigations after exclusion of other alternative diagnosis and patients previously diagnosed as porphyric. The data was analyzed through SPSS software version 11.0. Results: Twelve patients (46.2%) were males. Mean age was 21 years. Most common manifestation were gastrointestinal (n=22; 88.5%) followed by neurological symptoms (n=14; 54%). Neurological manifestations included seizures (n=9; 34.6%) and neuropathy (n=6; 23%). One patient presented with depression and insomnia. Family history was positive in (n=8; 30.8%). Eighteen (69%) had history of previous attacks at their presentation to the hospital. Most common precipitating factor was 'eating outside' (n=18; 69%). Conclusion: Porphyrias are uncommon and cryptic group of diseases. This study shows a slightly different gender distribution, earlier onset of symptoms, higher number of neuropsychiatric symptoms (especially seizures), more distal neuropathies and different precipitant in the studied subset of patients than described previously in the western studies.

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    ABSTRACT: The acute porphyrias, 4 inherited disorders of heme biosynthesis, cause life-threatening attacks of neurovisceral symptoms that mimic many other acute medical and psychiatric conditions. Lack of clinical recognition often delays effective treatment, and inappropriate diagnostic tests may lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment. We review the clinical manifestations, pathophysiology, and genetics of the acute porphyrias and provide recommendations for diagnosis and treatment on the basis of reviews of the literature and clinical experience. An acute porphyria should be considered in many patients with unexplained abdominal pain or other characteristic symptoms. The diagnosis can be rapidly confirmed by demonstration of a markedly increased urinary porphobilinogen level by using a single-void urine specimen. This specimen should also be saved for quantitative measurement of porphobilinogen, 5-aminolevulinic acid, and total porphyrin levels. Intravenous hemin therapy, started as soon as possible, is the most effective treatment. Intravenous glucose alone is appropriate only for mild attacks (mild pain, no paresis or hyponatremia) or until hemin is available. Precipitating factors should be eliminated, and appropriate supportive and symptomatic therapy should be initiated. Prompt diagnosis and treatment greatly improve prognosis and may prevent development of severe or chronic neuropathic symptoms. We recommend identification of at-risk relatives through enzymatic or gene studies.
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