Recent advances in the diagnosis of malignant hyperthermia susceptibility: how confident can we be of genetic testing?

Eur J Hum Genet. 2003 Apr;11(4):342-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejhg.5200964.


Malignant hyperthermia (MH) is a condition that manifests in susceptible individuals only on exposure to certain anaesthetic agents. Although genetically heterogeneous, mutations in the RYR1 gene (19q13.1) are associated with the majority of reported MH cases. Guidelines for the genetic diagnosis for MH susceptibility have recently been introduced by the European MH Group (EMHG). These are designed to supplement the muscle biopsy testing procedure, the in vitro contracture test (IVCT), which has been the only means of patient screening for the last 30 years and which remains the method for definitive diagnosis in suspected probands. Discordance observed in some families between IVCT phenotype and susceptibility locus genotype could limit the confidence in genetic diagnosis. We have therefore assessed the prevalence of 15 RYR1 mutations currently used in the genetic diagnosis of MH in a sample of over 500 unrelated European MH susceptible individuals and have recorded the frequency of RYR1 genotype/IVCT phenotype discordance. RYR1 mutations were detected in up to approximately 30% of families investigated. Phenotype/genotype discordance in a single individual was observed in 10 out of 196 mutation-positive families. In five families a mutation-positive/IVCT-negative individual was observed, and in the other five families a mutation-negative/IVCT-positive individual was observed. These data represent the most comprehensive assessment of RYR1 mutation prevalence and genotype/phenotype correlation analysis and highlight the possible limitations of MH screening methods. The implications for genetic diagnosis are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 19 / genetics
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Humans
  • Malignant Hyperthermia / diagnosis*
  • Malignant Hyperthermia / genetics
  • Phenotype*
  • Ryanodine Receptor Calcium Release Channel / genetics


  • Ryanodine Receptor Calcium Release Channel