OBJECTIVES To determine the prognosis in patients with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) without small cell lung cancer (SCLC), and to analyse longitudinal clinical, electrophysiological, and immunological data on each patient to establish prognostic factors for long term outcome.
METHODS The retrospective and part prospective study of 47 patients with LEMS was undertaken from data recorded during visits to a specialist neuromuscular clinic. Serial measurements of muscle strength score in shoulder abduction, elbow extension and hip flexion, compound muscle action potential (CMAP) amplitude, and postcontraction increment in abductor digiti minimi (ADM), and anti-P/Q-type voltage gated calcium channel (VGCC) antibody titre were made at each visit.
RESULTS Muscle strength scores were improved in 88% of patients after a median duration of immunosuppressive treatment of 6 years (range 1.3 to 17 years); anti-VGCC antibody titres fell in 52% after treatment; and mean resting CMAP amplitude improved from 2.7 mV initially to 8.8 mV after 2 years of treatment p<0.001). Initial pretreatment anti-VGCC antibody titre did not correlate significantly with either CMAP amplitude, CMAP increment, or clinical score: from serial measurements made during follow up, significant correlation between antibody titre and CMAP amplitude was seen in only two patients. Sustained clinical remission was achieved by 20 (43%) of whom only four remained in remission without the need for immunosuppression. Using a Cox proportional hazards model, the only independent predictor of sustained clinical remission was initial pretreatment clinical score (p=0.03). Lymphoma presented in three patients during the study.
CONCLUSIONS The prognosis in patients with LEMS without SCLC is favourable, although patients often need significant doses of immunosuppressive treatment to remain clinically stable. Only initial clinical muscle strength measurements and not anti-VGCC antibody titres or electrophysiological recordings are predictive of long term outcome.
- Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome
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