Preferred Sample Type

Organic Acids (urine)

Suitable Specimen Types

  • Plain Spot Urine
5 mL random urine

Specimen Transport

Send sample frozen to referral laboratory.

Sample Processing in Laboratory

Please send sample as soon as possible to BHH.

Sample Preparation

Freeze sample on reciept.

Turnaround Time

3 weeks

Sample Stability

-20 ºC

Organic Acids (urine)

General Information

The term "organic acidemia" or "organic aciduria" (OA) applies to a group of disorders characterized by the excretion of non-amino organic acids in urine. Most organic acidemias result from dysfunction of a specific step in amino acid catabolism, usually the result of deficient enzyme activity. The majority of the classic organic acid disorders are caused by abnormal amino acid catabolism of branched-chain amino acids or lysine. They include

  • Maple syrup urine disease (MSUD)
  • Propionic acidemia
  • Methylmalonic acidemia (MMA)
  • Methylmalonic aciduria and homocystinuria
  • Isovaleric acidemia
  • Biotin-unresponsive 3-methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase deficiency
  • 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) lyase deficiency
  • Ketothiolase deficiency
  • Glutaricacidemia type I (GA I)

A neonate affected with an OA is usually well at birth and for the first few days of life. The usual clinical presentation is that of toxic encephalopathy and includes vomiting, poor feeding, neurologic symptoms such as seizures and abnormal tone, and lethargy progressing to coma. Outcome is enhanced by diagnosis and treatment in the first ten days of life. In the older child or adolescent, variant forms of the OAs can present as loss of intellectual function, ataxia or other focal neurologic signs, Reye syndrome, recurrent ketoacidosis, or psychiatric symptoms.

Clinical laboratory findings that suggest an organic acidemia include acidosis, ketosis, hyperammonemia, abnormal liver function tests, hypoglycemia, and neutropenia. First-line diagnosis in the organic acidemias is urine organic acid analysis. The urinary organic acid profile is nearly always abnormal in the face of acute illness with decompensation; however, in some disorders diagnostic analytes may be present only in small or barely detectable amounts when the affected individual is not acutely ill. Confirmatory testing involves assay of the activity of the deficient enzyme in lymphocytes or cultured fibroblasts and/or molecular genetic testing.
Taken from The Organic Acidemias: An Overview by Margretta R Seashore, MD.


Patient Preparation

Analysis at the time of acute metabolic decompensation is the most informative. Otherwise, organic acid analysis is best performed on early morning urine samples (more concentrated). Information regarding clinical status, any dietary manipulations and medications is needed for optimal interpretation of organic acid results.


A request for a urine “metabolic screen” will normally be interpreted by the referral laboratory as requiring urine amino acids, organic acids and “spot tests”. However if the clinical information supplied suggests other tests could be appropriate these may be added by the Duty Metabolic Biochemist.

Reference Range

Provided by reference laboratory


  • EQA Scheme?: Yes
  • EQA Status: ERNDIM

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The Trust Laboratories at Heartlands Hospital, Good Hope Hospital and Solihull Hospital were awarded UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) accreditation to the internationally recognised ISO 15189 standard in May 2015. For a list of accredited tests and other information please visit the test database
Tests not appearing on this scope are either under consideration or in the process of accreditation and so currently remain outside of our scope of accreditation. However, these tests have been validated to the same high standard as accredited tests and are performed by the same trained and competent staff.

For further information contact Louise Fallon, Quality Manager, 0121 424 1235