Abnormal systemic metabolism of iron, porphyrin, and calcium in Fahr's syndrome

Ann Neurol. 1989 Oct;26(4):569-75. doi: 10.1002/ana.410260412.


Striopallidodentate calcinosis (Fahr's disease) is characterized clinically by seizures, rigidity, and dementia and pathologically by mineral deposition in the basal ganglia, dentate nucleus, and cerebral cortex. Disorders of iron and calcium-phosphate metabolism are thought to play a role in its pathogenesis. We present the case of a patient with familial striopallidodentate calcinosis who had porphyria cutanea tarda, refractory anemia, and pseudohypoparathyroidism type 2. The serum level of ferritin was markedly increased, serum iron and iron-binding capacity were below normal, and at autopsy she had deposition of iron in liver, spleen, bone marrow, and brain. She showed intermittent mild hypocalcemia, increased serum values of parathyroid hormone, elevated renal tubular reabsorption of phosphate, and low serum levels of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, suggesting blunted renal responsiveness to endogenous parathyroid hormone. Pseudohypoparathyroidism type 2 was confirmed by infusion of synthetic parathyroid hormone, which gave a normal urinary cyclic adenosine monophosphate response, but a blunted phosphaturic response. After splenectomy for hypersplenism and weekly phlebotomies, she showed progressive improvement in function, mental status, weight, and seizure control. The hypothesis advanced is that the underlying pathophysiology of the separate diseases contributed to the formation of the brain stones through mechanisms of defective iron transport and free radical production.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / metabolism*
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / pathology
  • Calcinosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Calcinosis / metabolism*
  • Calcinosis / pathology
  • Calcium / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Porphyrins / blood*
  • Radiography
  • Syndrome


  • Porphyrins
  • Iron
  • Calcium