Myasthenia Gravis

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Myasthenia Gravis:

Myasthenia Gravis By Mohamed abuelnaga


Definition: Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is an autoimmune disease characterized by weakness and fatigability of skeletal muscles, with improvement following rest. MG is caused by a decrease in the numbers of postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors at the neuromuscular junction, which decreases the capacity of the neuromuscular end-plate to transmit the nerve signal.


Auto-antibodies develop against acetylcholine ( ACh ) nicotinic postsynaptic receptors. Cholinergic nerve conduction to striated muscle is impaired by a mechanical blockage of the binding site by antibodies and, ultimately, by destruction of the postsynaptic receptor. PATHOPHYSIOLOGY

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Patients become symptomatic once the number of ACh receptors is reduced to approximately 30% of normal. The antibodies to the acetylcholine receptor reduce the number of functional receptors by blocking the attachment of acetylcholine molecules, by increasing the rate of degradation of receptors and by complement induced damage to the neuromuscular junction. The cholinergic receptors of smooth and cardiac muscle have a different antigenicity than skeletal muscle and are not affected by the disease.


The role of the thymus in the pathogenesis of MG is not entirely clear, but 75% of patients with MG have some degree of thymus abnormality ( eg , hyperplasia in 85% of cases, thymoma in 15% of cases). However, the stimulus that initiates the autoimmune process has not been identified. An immunoregulatory defect has been postulated, and there is evidence of genetic predisposition. Using the most sensitive assays, AChR antibodies are detected in the sera of 85-90% of myasthenic patients. The great majority of AChR antibodies belong to the IgG class. Etiology

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Antibody-negative patients are those with mild or localized myasthenia, and may represent one end of the spectrum of myasthenia gravis. Most of the antibodies bind to the main immunogenic region of the alpha subunit of the endplate receptors. Thus, MG is largely a post- junctional disorder characterized by a reduction of functional AChRs . MG may be associated with other disorders of autoimmune origin such as hypothyroidism , RA and SLE,ulcerative colitis, pernicious anaemia , vitiligo,pemphigus,polymyositis / dermatomyosits


The prevalence is approxi . 100 per 100 000 Mortality: untreated :30-70% with TTT:5% More in asian race, female sex ,young age Male to female ratio is 2:3 peak age 20-30years in females and 60-70 years in males EPIDEMIOLOGY


Painless aweakness and fatigability of skeletal muscles, usually occurring in a characteristic distribution. The weakness tends to increase with repeated activity and improve with rest. Ptosis and diplopia occur early in the majority of patients. Bulbar muscles: dysarthria , dysphagia , aspiration,nasal tone voice Fascial muscles :myasthenia snarl neck muscles:inability to keep the head upright Weakness remains localized to the extraocular and eyelid muscles in about 15 percent of patients. CLINICAL FEATURES

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Generalized weakness develops in 85 percent of patients; it may affect the limb muscles (proximal then distal),, as well as the diaphragm findings are limited to the motor system, without loss of reflexes or alteration of sensation or coordination. Course of the disease shows exacerbations and remissions


Exacerbation of MG Infection Stress :surgery Medications

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TRANSIENT NEONATAL MYASTHENIA : 15 to 20% of neonates born to myasthenic mothers have transient myasthenia, due to passage of AChR antibodies across the placenta. Signs are usually present at birth, but occasionally may be delayed for 12- 48 hr. Maternal anti-acetylcholine receptor antibody can cross via breast milk and accentuate neonatal myasthenia. Commonly associated features include difficulty in sucking and swallowing, difficulty with breathing, ptosis and facial weakness. No correlation has been found between the presence or degree of neonatal myasthenia and the concentration of the antibodies in the infant's serum. The condition has a tendency to spontaneous remission, usually within two to four weeks


Severe episodes may be caused by insufficient medication ( myasthenic crisis) or excessive medication (cholinergic crisis) and are suggested by: • Facial muscles may be slack, and the face may be expressionless • Inability to support the head, which will fall onto the chest while the patient is seated • Jaw is slack, voice has a nasal quality, body is limp • Gag reflex is often absent, and such patients are at risk for aspiration of oral secretions • An inability to cough leads to an accumulation of secretions and pneumonia. SEVERE EXACERBATIONS OF MG

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Myasthenic crisis or cholinergic crisis may cause bronchospasm with wheezing, bronchorrhea , respiratory failure, diaphoresis, and cyanosis. Cholinergic crisis resembles organophosphate poisoning. Miosis and the SLUDGE syndrome (salivation, lacrimation , urinary incontinence, diarrhoea , GI upset and hypermotility , emesis) may mark cholinergic crisis


Laboratory tests ABG Anti- AchR antibodies are detected in 80-85% of patients with MG and are pathognomonic for the disease. Imaging A chest Xray :for aspiration or pneumonia. A CT scan or MRI of the chest is highly accurate in detecting thymoma DIAGNOSIS

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Tensilon ( edrophonium ) challenge test useful in diagnosing MG and in distinguishing myasthenic crisis from cholinergic crisis Once the patient's airway and ventilation are secured, an initial test dose of edrophonium is given. Some patients may respond noticeably to a small dose (1 mg). If no adverse reaction occurs following the test dose, another dose (3 mg) of edrophonium should produce noticeable improvement in muscle strength within 1 minute. If no improvement occurs, an additional dose of 5 mg can be administered to total no more than 10 mg.

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During this procedure, the patient must be monitored carefully because edrophonium can cause significant bradycardia , heart block, and asystole . Patients with a cholinergic crisis may respond to edrophonium by increasing salivation and bronchopulmonary secretions, diaphoresis, and gastric motility (SLUDGE syndrome). The half-life of edrophonium is short (approx.10 min)

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Ice pack tes t Cooling may improve neuromuscular transmission. In a patient with MG who has ptosis , placing ice over an eyelid for 2 minutes will lead to cooling of the lid, which leads to improvement of the ptosis .. The test is thought to be positive in about 80% of patients with ocular myasthenia. Standard electromyography EMG testing: shows similar characteristics to a small dose of ND relaxant given to normal subjects during anaesthesia - a reduced compound muscle action potentials (CMAP) to single supramaximal twitch and decrement (fade) of >10% on tetanic Stimulation.


Anticholinesterase agents The first line of treatment Pyridostigmine ( Mestinon ):Its effect begins within 30 minutes, peaks at about 2 hours, with a half-life of 4 hours. The maximal useful dosage of pyridostigmine rarely exceeds 120 mg every three hours A sustained-release preparation is available but should be used only at bedtime if necessary to treat weakness occurring at night or in the early morning. TREATMENT

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Surgical thymectomy There is now abroad consensus that patients with generalized myasthenia gravis who are between the ages of puberty and about 60 years should have surgical thymectomy The requirement for anticholinesterases may be decreased for a few days after thymectomy ; therefore, postoperative anticholinesterase medication is given IV at a dose equivalent at about 75% of the preoperative requirement. The benefits of thymectomy are usually delayed for months to years after surgery.

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Immunosuppressive therapy Indicated when weakness is not adequately controlled by anticholinesterase drugs and is sufficiently distressing to outweigh the risks of possible side effects of immunosuppressive drugs. Prednisone, azathioprine , and cyclosporin are the agents now used. In general,treatment must be continued for a prolonged period, most often permanently.

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Steroids In myasthenia gravis, steroid treatment may reduce ACH receptor antibody levels and diminish the anti ACH receptor reactivity of peripheral-blood lymphocytes. Experimentally,steroids increase the synthesis of acetylcholine receptors in cultured muscle cells and may enhance neuromuscular transmission,but the clinical relevance of such effects in myasthenia gravis has not been established.

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Short term immunotherapies - plasma exchange and intravenous immune globulin Plasmapheresis removes antibodies from the circulation and produces short-term clinical improvement in patients with myasthenia gravis Typically, five exchange treatments of 3 to 4 liters each are carried out over a two week period with rapid improvement occurring within days of treatment. The drawbacks of plasmapheresis include problems with venous access, the risk of infection of the indwelling catheter, hypotension, and pulmonary embolism. The benefit must be weighed against these problems and the high cost of the procedure.

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intravenous immune globulin produce rapid improvement for several weeks to help the patient through a difficult period of myasthenic weakness Dose:400mg/kg/day for 5 days on alternating days It has the advantages of not requiring special equipment or large bore vascular access. The mechanism of action of immune globulin is unknown, but it has no consistent effect on the measurable amount of ACHreceptor antibody.

Recent treatment:

Targeting the specefic T and B cells and non-selective removal of helper T cells which are responsible of producing ACH receptor antibodies. Induction of tolerance to self antigens by their ingestion has been proven to prevent myasthenia gravis in animal models Recent treatment


The anaesthetic management of the myasthenic patient must be individualized to the severity of the disease and the type of surgery . The use of regional or local anaesthesia seems warranted whenever possible. Whenever local or regional anaesthesia is used, the dose of the local anaesthetic may be reduced in patients to decrease the possible effects of anaesthetics onNMT . ANAESTHETIC MANAGEMENT

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Preoperative preparation Age, sex, onset and duration of the disease as well as the presence of thymoma may determine the response to thymectomy . Also, the severity of myasthenia and the involvement of bulbar or respiratory muscles must be evaluated . Patients should be admitted 24-48h before surgery to allow detailed assessment of respiratory muscle and bulbar function and review of anticholinesterase and corticosteroid therapy . Respiratory reserve is best monitored by serial forced vital capacity (FVC) measurement . Other autoimmune diseases need to be elicited and appropriate preoperative investigations initiated

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Four risk factors have been identified: (Anesthesiology 1980; 53: 26-30 ) • Duration of myasthenia gravis for longer than six years ( 12 points ). • A history of chronic respiratory disease other than respiratory dysfunction directly due to MG (10 points). • A dose of pyridostigmine greater than 750 mg per day, 48 hr before operation (8 points). • A preoperative vital capacity < 2.9 L (4 points ) Total score of ≥ 10 points identified those patients likely to need postoperative pulmonary ventilation for more than three hours .

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Optimization of the condition of the myasthenic patients can markedly decrease the risk of surgery and improve the outcome. It is controversial whether anticholinesterase therapy should be maintained or discontinued before and after surgery. Anticholinesterases potentiate the vagal responses and hence adequate atropinization must be ensured . Also,it can inhibit plasma cholinesterase activity with a subsequent decrease in the metabolism of ester local anaesthetics , and the hydrolysis of sux . will be decreased.

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In contrast with sux ., the inhibition of acetylcholinesterase by anticholinesterases may increase the need for nondepolarizing muscle relaxants in the myasthenic patient, although this has not been documented . Recently, plasmapheresis alone without immunosuppression has been used to optimize the medical status of the myasthenic patient prior to major surgery. Anticholinesterase agents are discontinued, while corticosteroid medications are maintained to be tapered and discontinued postoperatively.

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Premedication Avoid sedation: patient has little respiratory reserve Hydrocortisone ‘cover’ should be given to those on long-term corticosteroid therapy Anaesthetic techniques . Two techniques have been recommended for general anaesthesia in the myasthenic patient. Because of the unpredictable response to suxamethonium and the marked sensitivity to non-depolarizing muscle relaxants, some anaesthetists avoid muscle relaxants and depend on deep inhalational anaesthesia, for tracheal intubation and maintenance of anaesthesia. These agents allow neuromuscular transmission to recover, with rapid elimination of these agents at the end of surgery. In theory , desflurane and sevoflurane may offer some advantages, due to their low blood solubility. Sevoflurane is probably superior to desflurane , due to its lower incidence of excitatory airway reflexes during inhalational induction

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However, others utilize a balanced technique which includes the use of muscle relaxants, without the need for deep inhalational anaesthesia, titrating small doses (10– 25% of the ED95 ) of intermediate-acting relaxants. Monitoring with a peripheral nerve stimulator for both intubation and surgical relaxation, if required . The decision as to whether to reverse residual neuromuscular blockade at the end of surgery is controversial. Some argue that the presence of anticholinesterases and antimuscarinics will confuse efforts to differentiate weakness due to inadequate neuromuscular transmission from cholinergic crisis in the recovery room . Some prefer spontaneous recovery and extubation when the patient has demonstrated adequate parameters for extubation (head-lift, tongue protrusion).

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Similarly, the presence of fade (T4/T1 < 0.9) in the preanaesthetic period predicts decreased atracurium requirements in patients with MG. This technique, along with preoperative pulmonary function testing, may be useful in determining preoperative baseline function . TIVA for the management of myasthenics has been reported . Many clinicians prefer to utilize regional or local anesthetic techniques. Regional techniques may reduce or eliminate the need for muscle relaxants in abdominal surgery . Epidural techniques offer the advantage of postoperative pain control with minimal or no opioid use.

Postoperative management.:

Ventilatory function must be monitored carefully after surgery . There are few tests of neuromuscular function which correlate with adequate ventilation . It has been shown recently in normal patients that many of the recommended tests such as maintained response to tetanic stimulation of a peripheral nerve can return to normal , while the pharyngeal and neck muscles necessary to protect the airway can still be partially paralysed . The different response of peripheral versus bulbar muscles may be more evident in myasthenic patients, particularly those suffering from bulbar and/or respiratory muscle weakness . It is essential that sustained respiratory muscle strength be confirmed before extubation of the trachea and resumption of spontaneous ventilation. Myasthenic patients may be at increased risk of developing postoperative respiratory failure - following trans- sternal thymectomy , up to 50% of patients require prolonged postoperative ventilation . Postoperative management.

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