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Acquired carnitine abnormalities in critically ill children

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Abstract

In order to characterize the role of carnitine during metabolic stress, we prospectively determined carnitine profiles in plasma and urine on admission, days 2, 5, 10 and 15, among 28 critically ill children free of any known conditions associated with secondary carnitine deficiency. More than 25% of plasma and 50% of urinary carnitine measurements were abnormal; 96% (27/28) of patients displayed on at least one occasion an abnormal [<−2 SD or >+2 SD] carnitine value in plasma. Three children had extremely low [<10 μmol/l] free carnitine (FC) levels in plasma. Plasma esterified and FC levels on admission were not related to the risk of mortality [PRISM score], to muscle lysis [CK values], and to the caloric intake. Levels of FC and esterified carnitine in plasma were unrelated to those measured in urine.

Conclusion Abnormal plasma and urine carnitine measurements are frequently found in critically ill children; the biological significance of these perturbations remains unclear. Caution must be exercised before concluding that an abnormal carnitine value is indicative of an underlying hereditary metabolic disorder in this population.

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Correspondence to F. Proulx.

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Proulx, F., Lacroix, J., Qureshi, I.A. et al. Acquired carnitine abnormalities in critically ill children. Eur J Pediatr 156, 864–869 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004310050732

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Key words

  • Carnitine
  • Child
  • Head injury
  • Heart defects
  • Sepsis