The Myotonias and Susceptibility to Malignant Hyperthermia

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Malignant hyperthermia (MH) is a pharmacogenetic disorder of skeletal muscle in which volatile anesthetics trigger a sustained increase in intramyoplasmic Ca2+ via release from sarcoplasmic reticulum and, possibly, entry from the extracellular milieu that leads to hypermetabolism, muscle rigidity, rhabdomyolysis, and death. Myotonias are a class of myopathies that result from gene mutations in various channels involved in skeletal muscle excitation-contraction coupling and sarcolemmal excitability, and unusual DNA sequence repeats that result in the inability of many proteins, including skeletal muscle channels that affect excitability, to undergo proper splicing. The suggestion has often been made that myotonic patients have an increased risk of developing MH. In this article, we review the physiology of muscle excitability and excitation-contraction coupling, the pathophysiology of MH and the myotonias, and review the clinical literature upon which the claims of MH susceptibility are based. We conclude that patients with these myopathies have a risk of developing MH that is equivalent to that of the general population with one potential exception, hypokalemic periodic paralysis. Despite the fact that there are no clinical reports of MH developing in patients with hypokalemic periodic paralysis, for theoretical reasons we cannot be as certain in estimating their risk of developing MH, even though we believe it is low.

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