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Eur J Endocrinol. 1999 Jul;141(1):50-4.

Premenstrual attacks of acute intermittent porphyria: hormonal and metabolic aspects - a case report.

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Department of Endocrinology--Diabetology, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Medicine, University Hospital Antwerp, Belgium.


We report the case of a 38-year-old woman with acute intermittent porphyria (AIP). Following the observation of an acute AIP attack in the patient's father, the diagnosis was established after genetic and biochemical examinations. At the age of 29, eight months after delivery of her first and only child, the patient was hospitalized due to a first proven attack of AIP. In the following years she suffered several premenstrual AIP attacks, with clinical symptoms ranging from abdominal pain to paralysis. One attack was accompanied by an increased urinary catecholamine output, strongly indicating adrenergic hyperactivity. The precipitation of acute episodes by secretion of gonadotrophins and a severe hyponatraemia due to a syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone secretion indicated hypothalamic involvement in the pathogenesis of AIP. This patient has experienced an evolution of treatment regimens. At first, acute attacks were treated by i.v. hypertonic glucose. Afterwards propranolol was instituted as a maintenance therapy. Later on, i.v. injections of haem arginate were very successful in resolving acute AIP episodes. However, until therapy with an LHRH analogue was started, the patient continued to suffer premenstrual AIP attacks. These LHRH analogues cause hypothalamic inhibition of gonadotrophin secretion, with stabilization of endogenous ovarian steroid production at a low level, and therefore may be effective in preventing acute exacerbations of this disease. Since this patient went on a fixed regimen of an LHRH analogue combined with the lowest dose oestrogen patch her quality of life has improved substantially and she has not required hospitalization, now for over 3 years.

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