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Administration of anaesthetic triggering agents to patients tested malignant hyperthermia normal and their relatives in New Zealand: an update

Dept Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Palmerston North Hospital, Palmerston North, New Zealand


Testing for malignant hyperthermia in New Zealand involves two tests—in vitro contracture testing of excised lateral quadriceps muscle and DNA analysis. In vitro contracture testing is regarded as the gold standard in malignant hyperthermia diagnosis but several publications have questioned the reliability of a normal result. Analysis of 479 anaesthetic records in 280 patients or their descendants throughout New Zealand who had tested negative for malignant hyperthermia, demonstrated there was no evidence of malignant hyperthermia episodes in this group who had been administered anaesthetic triggering agents. A wide range of anaesthetics were used over the study period. Analysis of each anaesthetic record was undertaken using the malignant hyperthermia grading scale which determines the likelihood that an anaesthetic event represents a malignant hyperthermia episode. Confirmation of the negative results was further supported by normal DNA analysis of patients in 48% of anaesthetics. There are advantages to using inhalational agents in certain situations and although demonstrating a zero risk of a malignant hyperthermia episode is not statistically possible, evidence in this large series suggests that the risk of an episode in these patients is extremely low and may be negligible. We suggest that anaesthetic triggering agents can be used safely in patients with normal in vitro contracture tests, and in their descendants.

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