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Neurology. 1999 May 12;52(8):1658-62.

A 10-year study of mortality in a cohort of patients with myotonic dystrophy.

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  • 1Neuromuscular Clinic, Complexe Hospitalier de la Sagamie, Quebec University in Chicoutimi, Canada.



To determine the age and causes of death as well as the predictors of survival in patients with myotonic dystrophy (DM).


In a longitudinal study, a cohort of 367 patients with definite DM was followed for 10 years.


During the 10-year period, 75 of the 367 DM patients (20%) died. The mean age at death (53.2 years, range 24 to 81) was similar for men and women. Among these 75 patients, 32 (43%) died of a respiratory problem, 15 (20%) of cardiovascular disease, 8 (11%) of a neoplasia, and 8 (11%) died suddenly. The ratio of observed to expected deaths was significantly increased to 56.6 (95% confidence interval [CI] 38.7 to 78.0) for respiratory diseases, 4.9 (95% CI 2.7 to 7.7) for cardiovascular diseases, and 2.5 (95% CI 1.1 to 4.6) for neoplasms. The mean age at death was 44.7 years for the childhood phenotype of DM, 47.8 years for the early-adult, 55.4 years for the adult, and 63.5 years for the mild phenotype (F = 4.8, p = 0.005). The age-adjusted risk of dying was 3.9 (95% CI 1.3 to 11.0) times greater for a patient with a distal weakness and 5.6 (95% CI 2.2 to 14.4) times greater for a patient with proximal weakness as compared with a person without limb weakness.


Life expectancy is greatly reduced in DM patients, particularly in those with early onset of the disease and proximal muscular involvement. The high mortality reflects an increase in death rates from respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, neoplasms, and sudden deaths presumably from cardiac arrhythmias.

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