Complete recovery from acute encephalopathy of late-onset ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency in a 3-year-old boy

J Inherit Metab Dis. 2007 Nov;30(6):981. doi: 10.1007/s10545-007-0692-x. Epub 2007 Oct 5.


Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency is the commonest urea cycle disorder which is transmitted in X-linked inheritance. It is mainly characterized in males by acute encephalopathy and hyperammonaemia with fatal outcomes in both classical neonatal and late-onset types. We report a 3-year-old healthy Hong Kong Chinese boy who presented with acute encephalopathy and coma after three days of gastroenteritis. He had no focal neurological deficit and brain CT imaging was normal. His plasma ammonia (54 micromol/L) and glutamine (747 micromol/L) concentrations were normal. The only biochemical abnormalities detected were marked orotic aciduria (700 micromol/mmol creatinine) and elevated urinary uracil. He regained consciousness spontaneously after three days under intensive care with parenteral fluid therapy. He recovered completely without any neurological deficits. Five months after discharge, urinary uracil concentration remained elevated despite normalized orotic acid concentration. Finally, ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency was diagnosed by DNA analysis. A missense mutation of arginine-to-glutamine substitution on amino acid 277 (p.R277Q) was revealed to be a late-onset mutant. Our case strengthens the argument that in any child with coma or acute encephalopathy of undetermined cause, genetic analysis of the OTC gene and the measurement of urinary uracil concentration remain the most reliable indicators of late-onset OTCD during acute and even quiescent phases. Existing neonatal screening programmes for inheritable metabolic disorders fail to detect late-onset variants. Therefore, a high clinical suspicion is a key to correct and timely diagnosis, especially in those patients with atypical presentations.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / metabolism
  • Brain Diseases, Metabolic / diagnosis*
  • Brain Diseases, Metabolic / therapy*
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Glutamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase / metabolism
  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase Deficiency Disease / complications*
  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase Deficiency Disease / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Glutamine
  • Ammonia
  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase