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Clinical electrophysiology in myasthenia gravis.
  1. E Stalberg


    Effective diagnostic methods are of great importance in order to recognise myasthenic patients among those with muscle fatigability. Intracellular recordings are useful for research work within the field and for detailed description of the motor end-plate's physiology in the individual case. The method is not used for the routine diagnosis of myasthenia gravis. The decrement of the electrical muscle response with nerve stimulation is the most commonly used method. The diagnostic yield is higher in proximal muscles, in warmed muscles, after exercise, and after ischaemia. A significant number of patients may be undiagnosed with this technique. The mechanical response with nerve stimulation shows the same type of decrement but also an abnormal response to long stimulation. The diagnostic value of this is under dispute. Single fibre ENG needs more patient cooperation than do these tests. The diagnostic yield is significantly higher. Some patients considered to have myasthenia gravis do not show any abnormalities with this technique, particularly those with the pure ocular form. Conventional EMG is not useful for the diagnosis of myasthenia, but may be indicated in these patients when concurrent nerve or muscle disease is in question. Tests for eye movement fatique have not proved useful. Stapedius reflex fatigability is demonstrated in about the same proportion of patients as have positive SFEMG findings. The technique is not uncomfortable for the patient and requires minimal cooperation. The general usefulness must be assessed by further routine use. Even with the advent of immunological tests, neurophysiological investigations are indispensable in helping establish the diagnosis of myasthenia gravis. Discrepancies between the results comparing electrophysiological and immunological tests may indicate that myasthenia gravis is a heterogenous entity within which subgroups may be identified.

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