Respiratory insufficiency is a serious threat to patients with Pompe disease, a neuromuscular disorder caused by lysosomal acid alpha-glucosidase deficiency. Innovative therapeutic options which may stabilize pulmonary function have recently become available. We therefore determined proportion and severity of pulmonary involvement in patients with Pompe disease, the rate of progression of pulmonary dysfunction, and predictive factors for poor respiratory outcome. In a single-center, prospective, cohort study, we measured vital capacity (VC) in sitting and supine positions, as well as maximum inspiratory (MIP) and expiratory (MEP) mouth pressures, and end expiratory CO(2) in 17 children and 75 adults with Pompe disease (mean age 42.7 years, range 5-76 years). Seventy-four percent of all patients, including 53% of the children, had some degree of respiratory dysfunction. Thirty-eight percent had obvious diaphragmatic weakness. Males appeared to have more severe pulmonary involvement than females: at a group level, their mean VC was significantly lower than that of females (p<0.001), they used mechanical ventilation more often than females (p=0.042) and the decline over the course of the disease was significantly different between males and females (p=0.003). Apart from male gender, severe skeletal muscle weakness and long disease duration were the most important predictors of poor respiratory status. During follow-up (average 1.6 years, range 0.5-4.2 years), three patients became ventilator dependent. Annually, there were average decreases in VC in upright position of 0.9% points (p=0.09), VC in supine position of 1.2% points (p=0.049), MIP of 3.2% points (p=0.018) and MEP of 3.8% points (p<0.01). We conclude that pulmonary dysfunction in Pompe disease is much more common than generally thought. Males, patients with severe muscle weakness, and those with advanced disease duration seem most at risk.
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