The Importance of Identifying GA1

The Importance of Identifying GA1

Brain damage is a tragic possible complication of the condition Gluatric Aciduria 1 (GA1.) GA1 is an inherited metabolic disorder resulting from a deficiency of the enzyme glutaryl-CoA dehydrogenase and is genetically determined. Symptoms of this condition include a large head, seizures, stroke, and neurological damage. Treatment of this condition is in the form of a low protein diet. Screening for this condition is now included in the newborn Guthrie blood spot.

In an acute encephalopathic crisis situation, caused by inadequate treatment of GA1, symptoms can progress to include poor appetite, abnormal movements, vomiting and irritability. In extreme circumstances, seizures and comas can occur which can lead to brain damage.

Diagnosis of GA1 is imperative so as to ensure that a carefully-controlled diet is implemented in order to prevent brain damage from occurring. However, due to the spectrum of symptoms associated with GA1, there comes a risk that an incorrect diagnosis could be made. For example, GA1 shares the symptoms of vomiting and irritability with septic conditions.

In order to ensure that GA1 is diagnosed at the earliest opportunity, and make sure a diet plan is put in place, the condition should be considered in all children presenting with acute encephalopathy, stroke, large head with developmental delay. Stroke is uncommon in children, but should always be considered in a child who stops moving a limb if there is not obvious history or signs of trauma. Stroke is always an emergency in paediatrics and early referral to a Paediatric Neurology Service is mandatory and referral to metabolic team should be considered.

As part of metabolic investigations, urine organic acids should be measured. This would give the best chance of diagnosing GA1 at an early stage and reducing the likelihood of brain damage.


  • Co-written by The TMLEP Clinical Risk and Patient Safety Publishing Group, Ms Georgia Millington LLB (Hons), Divisional Lead Analyst and Dr Nelly Ninis, Consultant in General Paediatrics. (2020). The Importance of Identifying GA1. TMLEP Clinical Risk Case Studies. 6 (6), 1.

Important Note

This article is intended to raise awareness to clinical risk issues in an effort to reduce incidence recurrence and improve patient safety. This is not intended to be relied upon as advice. Facts have been altered to ensure this case is non-identifiable, albeit clinical learning points remain applicable. To request an independent clinical review, please contact or call +44 (0) 203 355 9796.