Authors: Luuk R. van den Bersselaar, Heinz Jungbluth, Nick Kruijt, Erik-Jan Kamsteeg, Miguel A. Fernandez-Garcia, Susan Treves, Sheila Riazi, Ignacio Malagon, Lucas T. van Eijk, Nens van Alfen, Baziel G. M. van Engelen, Gert-Jan Scheffer, Marc M. J. Snoeck, and Nicol C. Voermans
Malignant hyperthermia and exertional rhabdomyolysis have conventionally been considered episodic phenotypes that occur in otherwise healthy individuals in response to an external trigger. However, recent studies have demonstrated a clinical and histopathological continuum between patients with a history of malignant hyperthermia susceptibility and/or exertional rhabdomyolysis and RYR1-related congenital myopathies. We hypothesize that patients with a history of RYR1-related exertional rhabdomyolysis or malignant hyperthermia susceptibility do have permanent neuromuscular symptoms between malignant hyperthermia or exertional rhabdomyolysis episodes. We performed a prospective cross-sectional observational clinical study of neuromuscular features in patients with a history of RYR1-related exertional rhabdomyolysis and/or malignant hyperthermia susceptibility (n=40) compared with healthy controls (n=80). Patients with an RYR1-related congenital myopathy, manifesting as muscle weakness preceding other symptoms as well as other (neuromuscular) diseases resulting in muscle weakness were excluded. Study procedures included a standardized history of neuromuscular symptoms, a review of all relevant ancillary diagnostic tests performed up to the point of inclusion and a comprehensive, standardized neuromuscular assessment. Results of the standardized neuromuscular history were compared with healthy controls. Results of the neuromuscular assessment were compared with validated reference values. The proportion of patients suffering from cramps (P<0.001), myalgia (P< 0.001) and exertional myalgia (P<0.001) was higher compared with healthy controls. Healthcare professionals were consulted because of apparent neuromuscular symptoms by 17/40 (42.5%) patients and 7/80 (8.8%) healthy controls (P<0.001). Apart from elevated creatine kinase levels in 19/40 (47.5%) patients and mild abnormalities on muscle biopsies identified in 13/16 (81.3%), ancillary investigations were normal in most patients. The Medical Research Council sum score, spirometry and results of functional measurements were also mostly normal. Three of 40 patients (7.5%) suffered from late-onset muscle weakness, most prominent in the proximal lower extremity muscles. Patients with RYR1 variants resulting in malignant hyperthermia susceptibility and/or exertional rhabdomyolysis frequently report additional neuromuscular symptoms such as myalgia and muscle cramps compared with healthy controls. These symptoms result in frequent consultation of healthcare professionals and sometimes in unnecessary invasive diagnostic procedures. Most patients do have normal strength at a younger age but may develop muscle weakness later in life.