Current Issues Regarding Treatment of Mitochondrial Fatty Acid Oxidation Disorders

J Inherit Metab Dis. 2010 Oct;33(5):555-61. doi: 10.1007/s10545-010-9188-1. Epub 2010 Sep 10.


Treatment recommendations in mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation (FAO) defects are diverse. With implementation of newborn screening and identification of asymptomatic patients, it is necessary to define whom to treat and how strictly. We here discuss critical questions that are currently under debate. For some asymptomatic long-chain defects, long-chain fat restriction plays a minor role, and a normal diet may be introduced. For patients presenting only with myopathic symptoms, e.g., during exercise, treatment may be adapted to energy demand. As a consequence, patients with exercise-induced myopathy may be able to return to normal activity when provided with medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) prior to exercise. There is no need to limit participation in sports. Progression of retinopathy in disorders of the mitochondrial trifunctional protein complex is closely associated with hydroxyacylcarnitine accumulation. A strict low-fat diet with MCT supplementation is recommended to slow or prevent progression of chorioretinopathy. Additional docosahexanoic acid does not prevent the decline in retinal function but does promote nonspecific improvement in visual acuity and is recommended. There is no evidence that L-carnitine supplementation is beneficial. Thus, supplementation with L-carnitine in a newborn identified by screening with either a medium-chain or long-chain defect is not supported. With respect to the use of the odd-chain medium-chain triglyceride triheptanoin in myopathic phenotypes, randomized trials are needed to establish whether triheptanoin is more effective than even-chain MCT. With increasing pathophysiological knowledge, new treatment options have been identified and are being clinically evaluated. These include the use of bezafibrates in myopathic long-chain defects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Energy Metabolism* / genetics
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / complications
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / diagnosis
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / enzymology
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / genetics
  • Lipid Metabolism, Inborn Errors / therapy*
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / complications
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / diagnosis
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / enzymology
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / therapy*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phenotype
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Fatty Acids