Blood ammonia and glutamine as predictors of hyperammonemic crises in patients with urea cycle disorder

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Purpose:The aim of this study was to examine predictors of ammonia exposure and hyperammonemic crises in patients with urea cycle disorders.Methods:The relationships between fasting ammonia, daily ammonia exposure, and hyperammonemic crises were analyzed in >100 patients with urea cycle disorders.Results:Fasting ammonia correlated strongly with daily ammonia exposure (r = 0.764; P < 0.001). For patients with fasting ammonia concentrations <0.5 upper limit of normal (ULN), 0.5 to <1.0 ULN, and ≥1.0 ULN, the probability of a normal average daily ammonia value was 87, 60, and 39%, respectively, and 10.3, 14.1, and 37.0% of these patients, respectively, experienced ≥1 hyperammonemic crisis over 12 months. Time to first hyperammonemic crisis was shorter (P = 0.008) and relative risk (4.5×; P = 0.011) and rate (∼5×, P = 0.006) of hyperammonemic crises were higher in patients with fasting ammonia ≥1.0 ULN vs. <0.5ULN; relative risk was even greater (20×; P = 0.009) in patients ≥6 years old. A 10- or 25-μmol/l increase in ammonia exposure increased the relative risk of a hyperammonemic crisis by 50 and >200% (P < 0.0001), respectively. The relationship between ammonia and hyperammonemic crisis risk seemed to be independent of treatment, age, urea cycle disorder subtype, dietary protein intake, or blood urea nitrogen. Fasting glutamine correlated weakly with daily ammonia exposure assessed as 24-hour area under the curve and was not a significant predictor of hyperammonemic crisis.Conclusion:Fasting ammonia correlates strongly and positively with daily ammonia exposure and with the risk and rate of hyperammonemic crises, suggesting that patients with urea cycle disorder may benefit from tight ammonia control.Genet Med 17 7, 561-568.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-568
Number of pages8
JournalGenetics in Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2 2015

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics.


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  • hyperammonemia
  • sodium phenylbutyrate


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