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Neuromuscul Disord. 2004 Feb;14(2):125-9.

Congenital form of spinal muscular atrophy predominantly affecting the lower limbs: a clinical and muscle MRI study.

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  • 1Dubowitz Neuromuscular Centre, Department of Paediatrics, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, Du Cane Road, London, W12 ONN, UK.


We describe clinical and muscle magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings in 11 cases (three familial and eight sporadic) with the form of spinal muscular atrophy characterised by predominant involvement of the lower limbs with weakness of the proximal and distal muscles and marked atrophy of the distal leg and foot muscles. All patients presented at birth with talipes, which were in extension in seven of the 11. Arm muscle and function were preserved and lower limbs appeared to be disproportionately shorter compared to trunk and upper limbs. Functional abilities were markedly affected and only one of the 11 is able to walk independently for long distances, while six require support of crutches and two use callipers for walking. One child lost ambulation following a fall. The course of the disease is relatively stable and the progression of disability appeared to be related mostly to increased contractures rather than to loss of muscle strength. Respiratory and cardiac function were well preserved. A neurogenic disorder was suggested by electromyography and/or muscle biopsy in all patients, while motor nerve conduction was consistently normal. Muscle MRI of the thighs revealed diffuse atrophic appearance with relative hypertrophy of the adductor longus and of the semitendinosus. Genetic studies excluded the involvement of the survival motor neuron gene but none of these families was sufficiently informative to study linkage to the locus on chromosome 12q23-q24 previously found to be involved in patients with similar phenotype. In our experience this form of spinal muscular atrophy affecting predominantly the lower limbs is a relatively common form and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of infants with talipes and weakness in the lower limbs. The identical clinical and imaging features of the sporadic and familial cases suggest that these cases are likely to be affected by the same condition.

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