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Niemann-Pick Disease Type C in Neonatal Cholestasis at a North American Center

Yerushalmi, Baruch*; Sokol, Ronald J.*; Narkewicz, Michael R.*; Smith, Debra*; Ashmead, Josephine W.†; Wenger, David A.‡

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition: July 2002 - Volume 35 - Issue 1 - pp 44-50
Original Articles

Objective: To determine the frequency of Niemann-Pick disease type C (NPC) among children being evaluated for neonatal cholestasis during a 2-year period.

Methods: Medical records were reviewed from all infants with cholestasis and all patients with NPC evaluated at our center from January 1997 through December 1998.

Results: Forty neonates with cholestasis were evaluated, including three patients diagnosed with NPC (age at diagnosis, 5–21 months) who were originally labeled as having idiopathic neonatal cholestasis (INH). Two adolescents (ages 14 and 16 years) were also diagnosed with NPC during this period, one who originally had neonatal hepatitis and cirrhosis, and the other who had hepatosplenomegaly throughout childhood. Three of the patients with NPC were Hispanic. At time of NPC diagnosis, infants had mildly delayed motor development and persistent splenomegaly with or without hepatomegaly, and the adolescents had ataxia, dysarthria, hepatosplenomegaly, and paresis of vertical gaze. The diagnosis of NPC was established by demonstrating defective cellular cholesterol esterification in cultured skin fibroblasts in three patients and a specific genetic mutation in three patients. Niemann-Pick disease type C was found in 27% of infants initially diagnosed with INH and 8% of all infants evaluated for cholestasis.

Conclusion: Niemann-Pick disease type C should be considered in all infants with cholestasis, particularly those with splenomegaly or who are of Hispanic descent. Electron microscopy and lipid analysis of liver biopsy specimens obtained during the evaluation of neonatal cholestasis may suggest this diagnosis.

*Pediatric Liver Center and Liver Transplantation Program, Section of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, and †Department of Pathology, University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Children's Hospital, Denver, Colorado; and ‡Department of Neurology, Jefferson Medicine College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Received June 26, 2001; accepted February 11, 2002.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Ronald J. Sokol, Pediatric Liver Center and Liver Transplantation Program, Box B290, Children's Hospital, 1056 E. 19th Avenue, Denver, CO 80218 U.S.A. (e-mail:

Supported in part by General Clinical Research Centers Programs (5MO1 R00069), National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health, the Abby Bennett Research Fund, the Helene Butler Fund, and the American Liver Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Award (B.Y.).

Presented in part at the 13th annual NASPGN meeting, Denver, CO, October 1999, and published in abstract form (J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1999;29:A71).

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.