Autoimmune aetiology for acquired neuromyotonia (Isaacs' syndrome)

Lancet. 1991 Jul 13;338(8759):75-7. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(91)90073-x.


Neuromyotonia is a rare disorder of unknown cause in which hyperexcitability of peripheral motor nerves leads to incapacitating muscle twitching, cramps, and weakness. We investigated an antibody-mediated mechanism for neuromyotonia in a 24-year-old man with a 7-year history of severe disease unresponsive to pharmacological treatment. Two periods of plasma exchange each produced almost complete disappearance of symptoms for 2-3 weeks, and a highly significant decrease in recorded neuromyotonic discharges. Injection of the patient's plasma or purified IgG into mice significantly enhanced in-vitro resistance to d-tubocurarine at the neuromuscular junction of phrenic nerve-diaphragm preparations. This finding suggests that an increase in neurotransmitter release might result from an antibody-mediated reduction in the number of functional potassium channels that normally regulate nerve excitability. The demonstration of pathogenic IgG autoantibodies in acquired neuromyotonia suggests that immunosuppressive treatment may be helpful in severe cases.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / analysis
  • Autoimmune Diseases / complications*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / physiopathology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / therapy
  • Diaphragm
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Myotonic Dystrophy / immunology*
  • Myotonic Dystrophy / physiopathology
  • Myotonic Dystrophy / therapy
  • Neuromuscular Junction / drug effects
  • Phrenic Nerve
  • Plasma Exchange
  • Syndrome
  • Tubocurarine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Tubocurarine / pharmacology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Tubocurarine