Your institution is subscribed to Read Institutional Edition. Log in or Sign Up to read full text articles.


Myasthenia Gravis and Crisis: Evaluation and Management in the Emergency Department

Jamie Roper, M Emily Fleming, Brit Long, Alex Koyfman
Journal of Emergency Medicine 2017, 53 (6): 843-853

BACKGROUND: Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an uncommon autoimmune disorder affecting the neuromuscular junction and manifesting as muscle weakness. A multitude of stressors can exacerbate MG. When symptoms are exacerbated, muscle weakness can be severe enough to result in respiratory failure, a condition known as myasthenic crisis (MC).

OBJECTIVE: This review discusses risk factors, diagnosis, management, and iatrogenic avoidance of MC.

DISCUSSION: MC can affect any age, ethnicity, or sex and can be precipitated with any stressor, infection being the most common. MC is a clinical diagnosis defined by respiratory failure caused by exacerbation of MG. Muscle weakness can involve any voluntary muscle. MC can be differentiated from other neuromuscular junction diseases by the presence of normal reflexes, normal sensation, lack of autonomic symptoms, lack of fasciculations, and worsening weakness with repetitive motion. Treatment should target the inciting event and airway support. All acetylcholinesterase inhibitors should be avoided in crisis, including edrophonium testing and corticosteroids initially. Respiratory support can begin with noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation, as this has been successful even in patients with bulbar weakness. If intubation is necessary, consider avoiding paralytics or use a reduced dose of nondepolarizing agents.

CONCLUSIONS: MC should be in the differential of any patient with muscular weakness and respiratory compromise. Emergency department management of MC should focus on ruling out infection and respiratory support. Strong consideration should be given to beginning with noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation for ventilatory support. Corticosteroids, depolarizing paralytics, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors should be avoided in patients with MC in the emergency department.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Trending Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"

We want to hear from doctors like you!

Take a second to answer a survey question.