Introduction: Myasthenia gravis and mitochondrial myopathies have common symptoms (fatigability, ophthalmoplegia) that could lead to diagnosis confusion.
Methods: We systematically reviewed medical history and ancillary investigations regarding 12 patients (7F/5M, mean age 47+/-14 years) having a mitochondrial myopathy but who were previously misdiagnosed as autoimmune myasthenia gravis and in whom a thymectomy was performed.
Results: Ocular palsy, ptosis and bulbar palsy were present in all patients. Limb fatigability was present in 9 cases. Symptoms were fluctuant but without remission. The misdiagnosis of myasthenia was based on the following arguments: 1) decremental EMG response (2 cases); 2) positive injectable anticholinesterase drugs test (3 cases); 3) partial response to oral anticholinesterase medications (2 cases); 4) AChR antibodies titer of 0.6 nM considered as positive (1 case). A multisystemic involvement was present in 5 patients: peripheral neuropathy (2 cases), deafness (2 cases), cardiopathy (3 cases), cerebellar involvement (2 cases) and myoclonia (1 case). The diagnosis of mitochondrial myopathy (at a mean age of 38+/-12 years) has been certified on the results of muscle biopsy showing mitochondrial proliferation (12 cases) and deleted mitochondrial DNA (8 cases).
Conclusions: In a patient presenting with oculomotor symptoms and muscle fatigability, progressive course and multisystemic involvement are major arguments for a mitochondrial myopathy. In the absence of relevant criteria arguing for Myasthenia Gravis (significant variability of muscle weakness, positive titer of anti-AChR or anti-MuSK antibodies, decremental EMG response), a muscle biopsy is required before indication of thymectomy to exclude a mitochondrial disease.