Abdominal Pain Due to Acute Intermittent Porphyria: When is the Sound of Hoof-Beats Not Horses, But Zebras? A Case Report

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Acute intermittent porphyria is a rare autosomal dominant hereditary inborn error of metabolism of the heme biosynthetic pathway that can be exacerbated through a multitude of environmental factors. This article is a case study describing the pathophysiology, clinical presentation management, and exacerbation prevention of acute intermittent porphyria. The disease is clinically manifested with severe abdominal pain, confusion, and seizures which may be life threatening. Specific treatment with heme preparations should be instituted as soon as increased excretion of porphobilinogen through urine sampling is confirmed. Supportive treatment includes opiate analgesia, monitoring for and treating complications such as hypertension and hyponatremia. Follow-up should include family counseling regarding genetic defects and individual counseling regarding lifestyle changes including avoidance of environmental factors that have been implicated in the exacerbation of the disease.

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