Clinical management of Wilson disease

Peter Hedera


The availability of effective therapies distinguishes Wilson disease (WD) from other inherited neurometabolic diseases. The cause of hepatic, neurologic or psychiatric symptoms is copper overload and subsequent copper toxicity. Diagnosed WD patients require life-long pharmacologic therapy that is focused on reversal of copper overload with maintenance of a long-term negative copper balance. This is associated with the rapid control of free or non-ceruloplasmin bound copper that is mostly responsible for acute cytotoxic effects. Currently available therapies can be divided into chelators and zinc salts. They have different mechanisms of action and the onset of efficacy that influences their selection in acute and chronic stages of therapy. We review the use of D-penicillamine and trientine for chelation therapies, including the required monitoring of therapy for its efficacy and possible overtreatment with iatrogenic copper deficiency. Additionally, the use of zinc salts is also discussed, including a possibility of its use for the initial therapy in an acute stage of the disease. Supportive and symptomatic therapies for liver failure and neuropsychiatric symptoms are also reviewed.