Validation of an ESI-MS/MS screening method for acylcarnitine profiling in urine specimens of neonates, children, adolescents and adults

Clin Chim Acta. 2003 Jan;327(1-2):47-57. doi: 10.1016/s0009-8981(02)00327-3.


Background: Acylcarnitine (AC) profiling in dried blood spots by means of electrospray ionisation tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS) has proven to be a useful method in neonatal screening, able to detect inborn errors of fatty acid oxidation, amino acid, organic acid and carnitine metabolism. Furthermore, this method is becoming increasingly applied in selective screening and in prenatal and postmortal diagnostics of inborn metabolic disorders, where urine is commonly used as specimen of interest. We therefore developed and validated a butylation method of acylcarnitine profiling in urine by ESI-MS/MS without previous chromatographic separation.

Methods: Random urine specimens were used for investigation of the analytical imprecision of the method. Recovery, precision and linearity were determined using methanolic standard solutions of free carnitine, octanoylcarnitine and palmitoylcarnitine at various concentrations.

Results: The mean coefficients of variation of within-run and run-to-run analysis of these analytes were found between 10% and 20% and demonstrated that the method fulfills the analytical requirements within the relevant ranges of concentration. Creatinine-related and age-related reference values of free carnitine and the ACs (C2-C18) were established. The definite discrimination was possible between patients with fatty acid oxidation disorders, organic acidurias, and healthy controls. The AC profiles from patients with various specific disorders were diagnostically helpful during acute deterioration and even during conditions of well-compensated metabolic state.

Conclusion: The method used in this study is suitable both for selective screening and for confirmation of diagnosis with the advantage of high-throughput quantitative measurement.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Carnitine / urine*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Metabolism, Inborn Errors / diagnosis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / standards*


  • acylcarnitine
  • Carnitine