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AGA Clinical Practice Update on Diagnosis and Management of Acute Hepatic Porphyrias: Expert Review

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Last updated:1st Mar 2023
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AGA Clinical Practice Update on Diagnosis and Management of Acute Hepatic Porphyrias: Expert Review - American Gastroenterological Association

The acute hepatic porphyrias (AHP) are rare, inborn errors of heme-metabolism and include acute intermittent porphyria, hereditary coproporphyria, variegate porphyria, and porphyria due to severe deficiency of 5-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase. Acute intermittent porphyria is the most common type of AHP, with an estimated prevalence of patients with symptoms of approximately 1 in 100,000. The major clinical presentation involves attacks of severe pain, usually abdominal and generalized, without peritoneal signs or abnormalities on cross-sectional imaging. Acute attacks occur mainly in women in their childbearing years. AHP should be considered in the evaluation of all patients, and especially women aged 15-50 years with recurrent severe abdominal pain not ascribable to common causes. The screening tests of choice include random urine porphobilinogen and δ-aminolevulinic acid corrected to creatinine. All patients with elevations in urinary porphobilinogen and/or δ-aminolevulinic acid should initially be presumed to have AHP. The cornerstones of management include discontinuation of porphyrinogenic drugs and chemicals, administration of oral or intravenous dextrose and intravenous hemin, and use of analgesics and antiemetics. Diagnosis of AHP type can be confirmed after initial treatment by genetic testing for pathogenic variants in HMBS, CPOX, PPOX, and ALAD genes. AHP is also associated with chronic symptoms and long-term risk of systemic arterial hypertension, chronic renal and liver disease, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Patients who have recurrent acute attacks (4 or more per year) should be considered for prophylactic therapy with intravenous hemin or subcutaneous givosiran. Liver transplantation is curative and reserved for patients with intractable symptoms who have failed other treatment options.

Methods: This expert review was commissioned and approved by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute Clinical Practice Updates Committee (CPUC) and the AGA Governing Board to provide timely guidance on a topic of high clinical importance to the AGA membership, and underwent internal peer review by the CPUC and external peer review through standard procedures of Gastroenterology. These Best Practice Advice (BPA) statements were drawn from a review of the published literature and from expert opinion. Because systematic reviews were not performed, these BPA statements do not carry formal ratings of the quality of evidence or strength of the presented considerations.

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