Recurrent noncirrhotic hyperammonemia causing acute metaboli
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Acute encephalopathy, while a common presentation in the emergency department, is typically caused by a variety of metabolic, vascular, infectious, structural, or psychiatric etiologies. Among metabolic causes, hyperammonemia is relatively common and typically occurs in the setting of cirrhosis or liver dysfunction. However, noncirrhotic hyperammonemia is a rare occurrence and poses unique challenges for clinicians.

Here authors report a rare case of a 50-year-old Caucasian female with history of bladder cancer status post chemotherapy, radical cystectomy, and ileocecal diversion who presented to the emergency department with severe altered mental status, combativeness, and a 3-day history of decreased urine output. Her laboratory tests were notable for hyperammonemia up to 289 ?mol/L, hypokalemia, and hyperchloremic nonanion gap metabolic acidosis; her liver function tests were normal. Urine cultures were positive for Enterococcus faecium.

Computed tomography imaging showed an intact ileoceal urinary diversion with chronic ileolithiasis. Upon administration of appropriate antibiotics, lactulose, and potassium citrate, she experienced rapid resolution of her encephalopathy and a significant reduction in hyperammonemia. Her hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis persisted, but her hypokalemia had resolved.

This case is an example of one of the unique consequences of urinary diversions. Urothelial tissue is typically impermeable to urinary solutes. However, when bowel segments are used, abnormal absorption of solutes occurs, including exchange of urinary chloride for serum bicarbonate, leading to a persistent hyperchloremic nonanion gap metabolic acidosis.

In addition, overproduction of ammonia from urea-producing organisms can lead to abnormal absorption into the blood and subsequent oversaturation of hepatic metabolic capacity with consequent hyperammonemic encephalopathy. Although this is a rare case, prompt identification and treatment of these metabolic abnormalities is critical to prevent severe central nervous system complications such as altered mental status, coma, and even death in patients with urinary diversions.