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Evidence of malignant hyperthermia in patients administered triggering agents before malignant hyperthermia susceptibility identified: missed opportunities prior to diagnosis

Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Palmerston North Hospital, Palmerston North, New Zealand


Malignant hyperthermia (MH) is a hypermetabolic disorder of skeletal muscle triggered almost exclusively by potent inhalational agents and suxamethonium. Signs of an MH reaction are non-specific and may be confused with the presentation of other problems such as sepsis and overheating of a patient. A high index of suspicion is needed to be aware of an early presentation of MH. Nine patients are presented who showed abnormal signs with an earlier anaesthetic where the possible diagnosis of an MH reaction was missed. These patients either presented later with an MH reaction, confirmed by DNA analysis and in some cases in vitro contracture testing, or were diagnosed by the identification of a causative mutation confirming MH susceptibility. The MH clinical grading scale is helpful in determining the likelihood that clinical indicators indicate a possible MH reaction. Masseter muscle rigidity is a known sign of MH, confirmed in this report by positive in vitro contracture testing and DNA analysis. Several uncommon muscle disorders have a high association with MH, and postoperative myalgia unrelated to suxamethonium can be a sign which is associated with MH. These reports emphasise the importance of a thorough family history (as the MH status was known by the family in four patients), a high index of suspicion for MH, and documentation of the possibility of MH susceptibility in the anaesthesia record.

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