Hyperammonemic coma due to parenteral nutrition in a woman with heterozygous ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency

Gastroenterology. 1995 Jul;109(1):282-4. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(95)90295-3.


Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency is an X-linked disorder of the urea cycle that can cause hyperammonemic encephalopathy in hemizygous males and heterozygous females. Affected females typically limit protein intake in their diet. This case report describes a 36-year-old woman with ulcerative colitis who went into hyperammonemic coma after administration of total parenteral nutrition. A similar episode of coma had occurred 7 years earlier after she delivered a normal boy. Heterozygous ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency was diagnosed based on a positive allopurinol tolerance test result after elevated levels of plasma glutamine and low plasma citrulline were detected. The protein load associated with parenteral alimentation resulted in symptomatic expression of this partial enzyme deficiency in this unique case. Partial ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency must always be considered in adult women and men with hyperammonemia who have normal liver function test results.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ammonia / blood*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / therapy
  • Coma / etiology*
  • Coma / genetics
  • Coma / metabolism
  • Female
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Ornithine Carbamoyltransferase Deficiency Disease*
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Total / adverse effects*


  • Ammonia