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Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2003 Dec;17(4):519-33.

Malignant hyperthermia.

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Department of Anaesthesiology, University of Berne, Inselspital, 3010 Berne, Switzerland.


Malignant hyperthermia (MH) is an uncommon, life-threatening, acute pharmacogenetic disorder of the skeletal muscle cell. It manifests in susceptible individuals as a hypermetabolic response on exposure to halogenated volatile anaesthetics and depolarizing muscle relaxants. There may also be a relationship between susceptibility to MH, heat stroke and exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis. The pathophysiology of the crisis involves an uncontrolled release of cytoplasmic free calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum leading to activation of energy-producing biochemical pathways. Organ system failure and rhabdomyolysis may occur as a result of high fever, hyperkalaemia and acidosis. The ryanodine receptor, the calcium-release channel of the sarcoplasmic reticulum, is the primary locus for malignant hypothermia susceptibility. Multiple mutations in the gene for the ryanodine receptor protein are causative. Other genes may also be involved. A classical fulminant crisis presents with a rising end-tidal carbon dioxide, skeletal muscle rigidity, tachycardia, hyperthermia and acidosis. Mortality may be as high as 70% if the syndrome is not recognized and treated. Immediate discontinuation of triggering agents, oxygenation, and correction of acidosis and electrolyte abnormalities, cooling and dantrolene are essential for treatment of the syndrome. Thanks to clinical and research investigations, widespread education and the introduction of dantrolene sodium, the mortality from MH is less than 5%. This chapter provides an overview and an update of MH.

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