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Am J Kidney Dis. 2003 Apr;41(4 Suppl 4):S13-26.

Dialysis-related carnitine disorder and levocarnitine pharmacology.

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Centre for Pharmaceutical Research, School of Pharmaceutical, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia.


Among the homeostatic processes controlling the endogenous L-carnitine pool in humans, the kidney has a vital role through extensive and adaptive tubular reabsorption. Kidney disease can lead to disturbances in L-carnitine homeostasis, and long-term hemodialysis therapy can lead to a significant reduction in plasma and tissue L-carnitine levels and an increase in the ratio of acyl-L-carnitine to free L-carnitine. These alterations may interfere with the oxidation of fatty acids and removal from tissues of unwanted short-chain acyl groups. A dialysis-related carnitine disorder (DCD) arises when these biochemical abnormalities exist in association with such clinical symptoms as muscle weakness, cardiomyopathy, intradialytic hypotension, or anemia that is resistant to erythropoietin therapy. Exogenous L-carnitine, administered intravenously, is approved for the treatment of secondary carnitine deficiency caused by long-term hemodialysis. Although intravenous administration of 20-mg/kg doses at the end of each hemodialysis session leads to supraphysiological levels of the compound in plasma, these levels do not appear to be associated with adverse effects. Because more than 99% of the body's carnitine pool is located outside of plasma, supraphysiological plasma levels appear to be required to ensure that depleted muscle stores can be replenished. Although oral L-carnitine has been used for the treatment of DCD, the bioavailability of oral L-carnitine is low (<15%) in healthy subjects and unknown in patients with end-stage renal disease. Moreover, gastrointestinal degradation of L-carnitine to trimethylamine and other compounds might limit the usefulness of long-term oral L-carnitine administration in this patient group.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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