AAEE minimonograph #25: Single-fiber electromyography in myasthenia gravis

D B Sanders, J F Howard
Muscle & Nerve 1986, 9 (9): 809-19
Single-fiber electromyography (SFEMG) demonstrates abnormal jitter in virtually all (99%) patients with myasthenia gravis (MG). One muscle, the extensor digitorum communis, is abnormal in most patients with this disease, but to obtain the maximum diagnostic sensitivity, it may be necessary to examine other muscles, especially ones that are more involved clinically. There is no one muscle that will be more abnormal in every patient with MG. The muscle(s) to be tested must be selected based on the distribution of weakness in the individual patient. Abnormal jitter is also seen in diseases of nerve and muscle; these diseases must be excluded by other electrophysiologic and clinical examinations before diagnosing MG. If neuronal or myopathic disease is present, increased jitter does not indicate that MG is also present. However, if jitter is normal in a muscle with definite weakness, the weakness is not due to MG. When abnormal neuromuscular transmission has been demonstrated by repetitive nerve stimulation, the finding of abnormal jitter does not add to the diagnosis, though it may be useful in providing baseline values for comparison with the results of subsequent studies. SFEMG is most valuable clinically in the patient with suspected MG in whom other tests of neuromuscular transmission and antiacetylcholine receptor antibody titers are normal. Serial measurements of jitter can be useful in following the course of disease and in assessing the effect of treatment, but the results from these studies must always be interpreted in light of the overall clinical picture.

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