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J Inherit Metab Dis. 1997 Aug;20(4):499-508.

Adult psychosocial outcome in early-treated phenylketonuria.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Ohio, USA.


Concerns about the psychosocial risk of adults with early-treated phenylketonuria (ETPKU) are predicated on four sources of scientific data: (1) consistent documentation of increased behavioural risk in children with ETPKU; (2) recent evidence of neurocognitive impairment in adults with ETPKU; (3) reports of neuroimaging abnormalities in adults with ETPKU; and (4) preliminary evidence of increased rates of psychiatric disturbance in this population. We studied the psychosocial adjustment of 25 patients, aged 18 years and older, with ETPKU. On most psychosocial outcome measures, patients were indistinguishable from 15 sibling controls. However, on a self-report inventory of psychiatric symptoms, 20% of the patients demonstrated significant morbidity. Psychosocial outcome of these patients was unrelated to concurrent or historical biological dietary disease factors, unlike neurocognitive outcome. A strong relationship was demonstrated, however, between neurocognitive measures and psychosocial morbidity. These findings indicate that a significant minority of patients with ETPKU develop psychosocial difficulties with multiple clinical elevations on a psychiatric inventory. However, most adults with ETPKU cope with the challenges of young adulthood with the same degree of success as their unaffected siblings. Neuropsychological surveillance during childhood and adolescence is important in identifying patients at risk for both neurocognitive and psychosocial morbidity.

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