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Mortality and survival in myasthenia gravis: a Danish population based study
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  1. P B Christensena,
  2. T S Jensena,
  3. I Tsiropoulosb,
  4. T Sørensenc,
  5. M Kjærc,
  6. E Højer-Pedersenc,
  7. M J K Rasmussenc,
  8. E Lehfeldtc
  1. aDepartment of Neurology, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, bDepartment of Neurology, Odense University Hospital, Denmark, cMyasthenia gravis study-group, western Denmark
  1. Dr P B Christensen, Department of Neurology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus Kommunehospital, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES To study mortality and survival of patients with myasthenia gravis.

METHODS 290 patients with myasthenia gravis were studied, including 212 incident cases identified during a comprehensive epidemiological study of myasthenia gravis in western Denmark 1975-89. Follow up was performed on 31 December 1994. Survival curves were constructed using the life table method. Patient data were compared with data from the public Danish population statistics. Death certificates were provided from the National Registry of Death.

RESULTS The annual average crude mortality rate was 1.8 per million (range 1.5-2.2). The myasthenia gravis related mortality rate (myasthenia gravis as underlying or contributory cause) was 1.4 per million (range 1.1-1.8). The age specific mortality rates were low below 50 years. After this age the mortality increased with age in both sexes; after 60 years more rapidly in men than in women. The overall survival rates three, five, 10, and 20 years from diagnosis were 85%, 81%, 69%, and 63% respectively. The survival of both sexes was shorter than that of the corresponding Danish population. Old age at diagnosis, a classification in Osserman-Genkins group IIB or III, and the presence of a thymoma were associated with a less favourable prognosis. The three, five, 10, and 20 year survival rates of thymectomised patients were 94%, 94%, 86%, and 79% respectively. The corresponding figures for the non-thymectomised patients were 78%, 71%, 56%, and 51%. A Cox regression analysis showed that this apparently significant effect of thymectomy was because the thymectomised patients were younger than the non-thymectomised patients. Furthermore, at the time of diagnosis of myasthenia gravis the non-thymectomised patients had a higher frequency of serious conditions associated with myasthenia gravis than the thymectomised patients.

CONCLUSION Patients with myasthenia gravis generally have a relative good prognosis although their survival is shorter than that of the corresponding population. Old age, a classification in Osserman-Genkins group III, and the presence of a thymoma are associated with a less favourable prognosis. In this study, the apparently significant effect of thymectomy was because the thymectomised patients were younger than non-thymectomised patients and because the non-thymctomised patients had a higher frequency of serious conditions associated with myasthenia gravis.

  • myasthenia gravis
  • mortality
  • survival
  • thymectomy

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