A cross-sectional study of carnitine deficiency and fatigue in pediatric cancer patients

Jin Shei Lai*, Tracy Haertling, Joanna Weinstein, Alfred W. Rademaker, Stewart Goldman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: Carnitine deficiency has been found in cancer patients and has been associated with fatigue. This study aimed to explore the prevalence of carnitine deficiency in pediatric cancer patients and its relationship with fatigue and other potential contributing factors. Methods: Children with cancer or Langerhans cell histiocytosis who were receiving treatment or had completed therapy were eligible. Patients completed the Pediatric Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness-Fatigue, the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory Multidimensional Fatigue Scale, a numeric fatigue rating, and had carnitine levels obtained. Carnitine deficiency was defined as a total and/or free carnitine level less than normal for age or an acylcarnitine value higher than normal for age. Results: Data from 142 children aged 8–17 were analyzed. Twenty-eight of 142 (19.7 %) had decreased total and 42.8 % (12/28) had decreased free carnitine levels. No patients had elevated acylcarnitine levels or elevated ratios. Patients with versus without carnitine deficiency differed by age (p = 0.043), treatment (p = 0.037), duration since last chemotherapy (p = 0.020), and body mass index (p = 0.010), but not fatigue, when all data were analyzed together. Yet, a negative relationship between fatigue and carnitine levels was found on a subgroup (off-therapy; fatigue worse than the norm). Conclusion: No significant association between fatigue and carnitine level was demonstrated when data from all patients were analyzed together; however, a significant yet unexpected relationship was found for patients who completed therapy and reported elevated fatigue. Given the small sample size, these results should be interpreted with caution. Future studies to explore impact upon excessive carnitine levels are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-483
Number of pages9
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Cancer
  • Carnitine
  • Children
  • Fatigue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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