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Ann Fr Anesth Reanim. 1989;8(5):435-43.

[Clinical features of malignant hyperthermia crisis].

[Article in French]

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  • 1Département d'Anesthésie-Réanimation, Hôpital Central, Nancy.


Malignant hyperthermia (MH) is a pharmacogenetic disorder. It is classically described as a hypermetabolic state triggered by halogenated anaesthetics and/or depolarizing muscle relaxants. In fact, since Denborough and Lovel's case, it has been shown that MH has a great number of clinical forms. The overwhelming picture of muscular hypercatabolism with fulminating hyperthermia and generalized rigidity is becoming rare. A better knowledge of the first symptoms explains in part the better prognosis: masseter spasm after suxamethonium, an increase in expired CO2 concentration, unexplained tachycardia, ventricular arrhythmias. The use of dantrolene reduced the mortality of MH. The different types of clinical manifestations are due to genetic differences, the concentration of the anaesthetic agent, and the length of time of exposure to the drug. The severity of the episode is linked to environmental factors such as stress, physical exercise, ambient temperature, concomitant use of other drugs. Masseter spasm after suxamethonium is specific for MH, but not pathognomonic. It occurs in 1% of cases in children when using halothane with suxamethonium. However, in those patients who displayed such a spasm, more than 50% had a positive contracture test. Masseter spasm is often associated with severe rhabdomyolysis in patients with muscle dystrophy, especially Duchenne's dystrophy. In the latter case, major cardiac problems may occur at the time of anaesthetic induction. Even if there are no other signs of MH, all patients who have had a masseter spasm must be considered as open to doubt, and should be further explored. MH is often difficult to diagnose in medium severity types.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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