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Research Article

Fulminant Wilson's disease with haemolysis and renal failure: copper studies and assessment of dialysis regimens.

Br Med J 1977; 2 doi: (Published 10 September 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;2:660
  1. A N Hamlyn,
  2. J L Gollan,
  3. A P Douglas,
  4. S Sherlock


    Two girls, aged 12 and 17 years, presented with hepatocellular dysfunction and severe haemolysis due to Wilson's disease (hepatolenticular degeneration). This was accompanied by acute renal failure. In the absence of renal function sufficient for the urinary excretion of penicillamine, studies were performed to assess the potential of peritoneal dialysis, ascites removal by ultrafiltration-reinfusion, and haemodialysis as alternative excretory pathways for copper. The greatest amount of copper, as judged by rising bath concentrations, seemed to be eliminated with haemodialysis. But this was accompanied by a progressive increase in serum copper concentrations with rapid clinical and biochemical deterioration leading to death within 48 hours. A small amount of copper was lost with ascites removal. Significant amounts of copper were removed during peritoneal dialysis (36 mumol/day (2287 microgram/day)), although a clinical response was not evident before haemodialysis was introduced. The administration of penicillamine orally, intravenously, or intraperitoneally produced no measurable increase in copper excretion into the peritoneal dialysate. Hence peritoneal dialysis alone appears to offer the greatest potential benefit with regard to both eliminating copper and altering the course of this fulminant form of Wilson's disease.