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Clin Invest Med. 1996 Oct;19(5):311-6.

Tyrosinemia: the Quebec experience.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Hôpital Sainte-Justine, University of Montréal, Que.


Tyrosinemia, a genetic disorder of the liver and kidneys, is caused by reduced activity of fumarylacetoacetate hydrolase (FAH), the final enzyme in the degradation of tyrosine. The consequent presence of succinylacetone in urine or blood is pathognomonic of tyrosinemia and is used as a confirmatory test in the Quebec neonaral screening program. Due to a complex founder effect, the province of Quebec has an unusually high prevalence of tyrosinemia, particularly in the Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean region (where the prevalence is 1 in 1850). Tyrosinemia has several different clinical presentations, ranging from acute liver failure with severe coagulopathy early in life, to slowly progressing cirrhosis with multiple nodules and variable renal dysfunction, to normal liver function with renal failure. Hepatocarcinoma has been found in approximately one third of cases. FAH complementary DNA has been cloned and mapped to chromosome 15q23-q25. The mutation observed in Quebec is a splice mutation at intron 12. This mutation is common and has been observed in other areas of the world as well, although more than 20 mutations causing tyrosinemia have now been described. Liver transplantation remains the definitive treatment. The author's team has carried out 28 liver transplantations (including 2 combined liver-kidney transplantations) in 25 children. The overall survival rate has been 92%; two children died as a result of primary nonfunction. The primary indications for transplantation were hepatic nodules (in 14 cases), neurological crises (6) and hepatic (3) or renal failure (2). An abnormal glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of less than 80 mL/min per 1.73 m2 was documented before transplantation in 54% of the cases. The rate normalized after liver transplantation in most patients, with rapid improvement in tubular function. However, patients with a severely low rate (less than 55 mL/min per 1.73 m2) before transplantation still had borderline renal function and poor growth after the transplantion, despite normal liver function. Therefore, for children with a consistently low GFR, careful consideration should be given to performing a combined liver-kidney transplantation, and a renal biopsy should form part of the pretransplantation evaluation.

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