RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
A symptomatic elevation in plasma ammonium concentration, termed hyperammonemia, is associated with numerous congenital and acquired conditions (Table 11). In some cases, such as urea cycle disorders, ammonia is the principal toxin. In other instances, such as portal systemic encephalopathy, it is but one of a number of metabolic disturbances, However, in either case hyperammonemic episodes should be treated aggressively to prevent coma, subsequent brain damage, or death. This involves restricting protein intake, providing adequate calories, and giving agents that remove accumulated nitrogen. Long-term therapy relies on diagnosing the specific disease rate. This rarely requires invasive procedures such as liver biopsy. In most cases measurement of plasma amino acids and urinary organic acids will identify the defect. Treatment involving restriction of nitrogen intake, vitamin supplementation, or stimulation of alternative pathways of waste nitrogen excretion can then be instituted. Early therapy, especially in patients with neonatal-onset hyperammonemia, is imperative to avoid severe brain damage. On this basis, the plasma ammonium level should be determined in virtually every newborn with lethargy, hypotonia, poor feeding, seizures, and/or respiratory distress of unclear origin (Table 12).
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