Arch Dis Child 78:122-126 doi:10.1136/adc.78.2.122
  • Original article

Does a single plasma phenylalanine predict quality of control in phenylketonuria?

  1. A MacDonalda,
  2. G W Rylancea,
  3. D Asplina,
  4. S K Halla,
  5. I W Boothb
  1. aChildren’s Hospital, Birmingham, bUniversity of Birmingham, Institute of Child Health, Birmingham
  1. Mrs A MacDonald, Dietetic Services, Children’s Hospital, Ladywood Middleway, Birmingham B16 8ET.
  • Accepted 26 September 1997


A 1993 MRC working group on phenylketonuria suggested standardising blood phenylalanine measurements by taking blood samples at the same time each day. Since it is not known how representative of a 24 hour period a single phenylalanine concentration is, the aim of this study was to investigate the 24 hour variability of plasma phenylalanine in well controlled children with phenylketonuria. Sixteen subjects, 12 girls and four boys aged 1 to 18 years, had hourly venous blood samples collected for 13 hours between 09.00 and 21.00 on one day. Serial skin puncture blood specimens were then collected at 24.00, 03.00, and 06.00 within the same 24 hour period. All food and drink was weighed. The median variation in plasma phenylalanine concentration was 155 μmol/l/day, with a minimum of 80 and a maximum of 280. The highest concentration occurred in the morning between 6.00 and 9.00 in 63% of subjects; the lowest occurred between midday and midnight in 94%. Concentrations < 100 μmol/l occurred in 46% of children below 11 years, three having concentrations < 30 μmol/l for two, six, and seven hours respectively. Three of five subjects had concentrations above the MRC guidelines for 24% of the period studied. Except in two subjects, the blood concentrations did not rise in response to phenylalanine consumption. However, the greater the quantity of protein substitute taken between waking and the 16.00 specimen, the larger the decrease in daytime phenylalanine concentration (r = −0.7030) (p < 0.005). There is therefore wide variability in phenylalanine concentrations in a 24 hour period in children with phenylketonuria which is not reflected in a single observation. Further study is needed to investigate the effects of timing of protein substitute on the stability of phenylalanine concentrations.