Definition

What is malignant hyperthermia?

Malignant hyperthermia is a condition that triggers a severe reaction to certain drugs used as part of anesthesia for surgery. Without prompt treatment, the disease can be fatal.

How common is malignant hyperthermia?

Malignant hyperthermia occurs in 1 in 5,000 to 50,000 instances in which people are given anesthetic gases. Susceptibility to malignant hyperthermia is probably more frequent, because many people with an increased risk of this condition are never exposed to drugs that trigger a reaction. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of malignant hyperthermia?

Signs and symptoms of malignant hyperthermia reaction include a dangerously high body temperature, severe muscle spasms and a fast heart rate. In most cases, the genetic defect that causes malignant hyperthermia is inherited. It is called a pharmacogenetic disorder because the reaction is caused by specific drugs. Genetic testing can reveal whether you have these mutations.

If you have a parent, sibling or child with malignant hyperthermia, there is a 50 percent chance that you have the condition as well. Other close relatives, such as aunts, uncles and grandchildren, have a 25 percent chance. Men are more likely to have an episode of malignant hyperthermia than are women. Children with the condition also are susceptible to reactions during surgery.

Malignant hyperthermia may not trigger a reaction during a person’s first surgery. However, the risk of a crisis remains for future surgeries. For those at risk of having a reaction, other safe medications are available.

In rare cases, people with malignant hyperthermia have shown signs of a reaction after intense physical activity.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes malignant hyperthermia?

MH is inherited. Only one parent has to carry the disease for a child to inherit the condition.

It may occur with some other inherited muscle diseases, such as multiminicore myopathy and central core disease.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for malignant hyperthermia?

While this condition often occurs in people without other serious medical problems, certain inherited muscle diseases (including central core disease and multiminicore disease) are associated with malignant hyperthermia susceptibility.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is malignant hyperthermia diagnosed?

MH is often discovered after a person is given anesthesia during surgery.

There may be a family history of MH or unexplained death during anesthesia.

The person may have a fast and often irregular heart rate.

Tests for MH may include:

  • Blood clotting studies (PT, or prothombin time; PTT, or partial thrombloplastin time)
  • Blood chemistry panel, including CPK (creatinine phosphokinase, which is higher in the blood when muscle is destroyed during a bout of the illness)
  • Genetic testing to look for defects in the genes that are linked with the disease
  • Muscle biopsy
  • Urine myoglobin (muscle protein)

How is malignant hyperthermia treated?

If you have a family history of malignant hyperthermia or have a family member who has problems with anesthesia, tell your surgeon and anesthesiologist prior to surgery. This step allows your doctors to prepare for and respond quickly to any reactions.

A drug called dantrolene (Dantrium) is used to treat the reaction. Ice packs, cooling blankets and fans may also be used to help reduce body temperature.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage malignant hyperthermia?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you reduce your risk of malignant hyperthermia:

  • Tell your health care provider if you or anyone in your family has MH, especially before having surgery with general anesthesia.
  • Avoid stimulant drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine (speed), and ecstasy. These drugs may cause problems similar to MH in people who are prone to this condition.
  • Genetic counseling is recommended for anyone with a family history of myopathy, muscular dystrophy, or MH.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: November 22, 2017 | Last Modified: November 22, 2017

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