Levocarnitine for the Treatment of Valproic Acid–Induced Hyperammonemic Encephalopathy in Children: The Experience of Large, Tertiary Care Pediatric Hospital and a Poison Center

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Although rare, symptomatic hyperammonemia is sometimes associated with valproic acid (VPA), especially in children. L-carnitine (levocarnitine), sometimes classified as an essential amino acid, is vital to mitochondrial utilization of fatty acids and can be helpful in treating this condition. The data supporting this, however, are limited.

Study Question:

The aim of the study was to illustrate the role of L-carnitine in the treatment of patients with VPA–induced hyperammonemic encephalopathy (VPE) at 2 different institutions.


Medical records of affected patients were reviewed; data collected included exposure history, clinical manifestations, physical examination, and laboratory values.


There were 13 cases of VPE; 12 were associated with therapeutic dosing and 1 with an overdose. The maximum ammonia concentration was 557 μmol/L, and blood concentrations of VPA ranged from 68 to 600 μg/mL (therapeutic range 50–100 μg/mL). In all cases, liver function tests were normal or only mildly increased. In this study, 12 patients received a daily dose of L-carnitine 100 mg/kg, and 1 received 200 mg/kg (intravenous infusion over 30 minutes) divided every 8 hours until clinical improvement. All patients made a full recovery. None developed adverse effects or reactions, and no cases of toxicity were reported.


Our series suggests that intravenous L-carnitine, at a dose of 100 mg·kg−1·d−1 in 3 divided doses each over 30 minutes until clinical improvement occurs, is a safe and effective treatment in the management of VPE in children.

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