Background: Hyperornithinemia-hyperammonemia-homocitrullinuria syndrome, a rare inherited urea cycle disorder, can remain undiagnosed for decades and suddenly turn into an acute life-threatening state. Adult presentation of hyperornithinemia-hyperammonemia-homocitrullinuria syndrome has rarely been described, but is potentially underdiagnosed in the emergency room. In the case of acute hyperammonemia, prompt diagnosis is essential to minimize the risk of brain damage and death.
Case presentation: We present the diagnostics, clinical course, and treatment of a 48-year-old Caucasian man presenting with unexplained unconsciousness in the emergency room. A web search by a family member led to the suspicion of urea cycle disorder. Subsequent analysis of plasma ammonia and amino acids in plasma and urine demonstrated a pattern typical for hyperornithinemia-hyperammonemia-homocitrullinuria syndrome. The diagnosis was confirmed by genetic analysis which revealed two heterozygous mutations in the SLC25A15 gene. The cause of the hyperammonemia crisis was acute upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage, leading to protein overload and subsequent cerebral edema. Continuous renal replacement therapy, scavenger treatment, and tightly controlled nutrition were useful in preventing hyperammonemia and recurrence of cerebral edema.
Conclusions: The case emphasizes the importance of taking rare metabolic genetic disorders into consideration in patients with prolonged unexplained unconsciousness.
Keywords: Ammonia; HHH; Hyperammonemia; Hyperornithinemia-hyperammonemia-homocitrullinuria syndrome; UCD; Unconsciousness; Urea cycle disorders.