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Am Rev Respir Dis. 1988 Oct;138(4):867-73.

Respiratory muscle function in myasthenia gravis.

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Respiratory Muscle Laboratory, Brompton Hospital, London, United Kingdom.


Global respiratory muscle function and diaphragmatic strength were assessed and compared with quadriceps femoris muscle strength in 17 patients with generalized mild-to-moderate myasthenia gravis and breathlessness. Initial measurements, made 10 h after the last dose of oral anticholinesterase therapy, demonstrated reduced maximal static expiratory (52.4 +/- 26.8% predicted) and inspiratory (54.0 +/- 23.5% predicted) mouth pressures in 16 patients, and reduced quadriceps femoris muscle strength in all cases. Vital capacity (VC) (70.9 +/- 19.0% predicted) was abnormal in 12 patients. Transdiaphragmatic pressure recorded during maximal sniffs (sniff Pdl) was reduced in eight patients, whereas pressure recorded during bilateral phrenic nerve stimulation at 1 Hz (twitch Pdi) was reduced in only three. There was no relationship between the grade of myasthenia or the severity of dyspnea and any of the measurements of respiratory muscle strength. After the administration of edrophonium hydrochloride (Tensilon), there was a significant increase in maximal static expiratory and inspiratory mouth pressures in quadriceps muscle strength and in sniff Pdi. The small increase in VC was not significant, and twitch Pdi increased in only one patient. Phrenic nerve conduction time was normal before and after Tensilon. Two patients with severe long-standing myasthenia showed no improvement in any measurement after Tensilon. We conclude that expiratory and inspiratory muscle weakness was not uncommon in patients with myasthenia gravis. Respiratory muscle strength improved after Tensilon. Vital capacity was a less sensitive measure of respiratory muscle strength than were respiratory mouth pressures and sniff Pdi. Diaphragmatic involvement was not detected by twitch Pdi unless the weakness was severe.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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