Recommended approaches for the laboratory measurement of homocysteine in the diagnosis and monitoring of patients with hyperhomocysteinaemia

Ann Clin Biochem. 1999 May;36 ( Pt 3):372-9. doi: 10.1177/000456329903600311.


Several recent studies have indicated that an increased concentration of plasma homocysteine is an independent risk factor for the premature development of vascular disease. These important findings emphasize the need for careful selection of an appropriate analytical approach to diagnose and treat individuals who may be at risk. We compared the results obtained from the measurement of plasma total homocysteine (free + protein-bound fractions) by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with the measurement of plasma free homocystine (free fraction) by conventional ion-exchange chromatography in 10 patients with inherited defects of homocysteine metabolism and 13 obligate heterozygote individuals. This study can be used to formulate recommendations on the appropriate use of these assays in different clinical circumstances. Our results show that the concentration of total plasma homocysteine must exceed 60 mumol/L before plasma free homocystine becomes detectable by conventional ion-exchange chromatography. Similarly, assessment of the urinary excretion of homocysteine in these patients indicates that it may not become consistently detectable by conventional ion-exchange chromatography or HPLC until plasma total homocysteine exceeds 150 mumol/L. On this basis, while most patients with classical homocystinuria would be detected by analysis of plasma using conventional ion-exchange chromatography or by measurement of of the urinary homocysteine excretion, occasional patients would be missed. When monitoring patients receiving treatment for classical homocystinuria, in whom metabolic control is good, and when investigating individuals with a suspected inherited defect of cobalamin or folate metabolism, a method which measures plasma total homocysteine should be used. The identification of moderate hyperhomocysteinaemia of undefined cause investigated in relation to a history of early vacsular disease can only be identified by this approach.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Clinical Chemistry Tests / standards*
  • Female
  • Homocysteine / blood
  • Homocysteine / urine
  • Humans
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia / blood
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic


  • Homocysteine