Primary hyperoxaluria in infants: medical, ethical, and economic issues

J Pediatr. 1999 Dec;135(6):746-50. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(99)70095-8.


Objectives: Survey on the current medical approach to and the economic issues affecting infants with primary hyperoxaluria type 1.

Methods: Questionnaire to specialized centers worldwide.

Results: Seventy-eight infants were identified: 44% were of Muslim origin and 56% were not. The consanguinity rate was 76% and 0%, respectively. Thirty-three percent were treated in developing countries (group 1) and 67% in developed countries (group 2). Initial presentation (4.9 +/- 2.8 months) consisted of failure to thrive (22%), urinary tract infection (21%), and uremia (14%). Radiologic findings included nephrocalcinosis (91%), urolithiasis (44%), or both (22%). The diagnosis was based on family history, tissue biopsy, and urine oxalate level in most patients from group 1 and on urine oxalate and glycolate levels, alanine:glyoxalate aminotransferase activity, and DNA analysis in patients from group 2. Therapeutic withdrawal was the final option for 40% of children; financial reasons were given for 10 of 17 patients from group 1 and 0 of 9 from group 2. End-stage renal disease started at 3.2 +/- 6.4 years of age and was present in half of the patients at the time of diagnosis. Fifty-two percent of the patients died: 82% in group 1 versus 33% in group 2; 33% of patients who underwent transplantation died versus 71% of those who did not.

Conclusion: The management of primary hyperoxaluria type 1 in infants is a major example of the ethical, epidemiologic, technical, and financial challenges that are raised by recessive inherited diseases with early life-threatening onset. In certain circumstances, oxalosis can be regarded as a condition for which therapeutic withdrawal may be an acceptable option.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Developed Countries
  • Developing Countries
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Humans
  • Hyperoxaluria / complications
  • Hyperoxaluria / diagnosis*
  • Hyperoxaluria / mortality
  • Hyperoxaluria / therapy*
  • Infant
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis