Diagnostic yield of electromyography in children with myopathic disorders

Pediatr Neurol. 2014 Aug;51(2):215-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2014.04.013. Epub 2014 Apr 18.


Background: Interpretation of pediatric electromyography interpretation in myopathic disorders is technically challenging. We assessed our electromyographic experience with respect to sensitivity and specificity in pediatric myopathy.

Methods: We did a retrospective chart review of patients ≤18 years between 2009 and 2013. Two hundred twenty-four electromyographic studies were reviewed with the following referral diagnoses: myopathy, muscle weakness, neuromuscular disorders, myositis, myalgia, myoglobinuria, myasthenia, myotonia, cramps, periodic paralysis, hypotonia, and developmental delay. Only children who had an electromyography and muscle biopsy were included for analysis. Patients with neurogenic electromyography and neuromuscular junction disorders were excluded. Myopathic electromyography was defined as short duration, low amplitude, polyphasic motor unit potentials with rapid recruitment.

Results: Seventy-two patients were included (age range, 6 months-18 years). The following observations were made: group A: myopathic electromyography or pathognomonic of muscle disease and biopsy or genetically confirmed myopathy (32 cases); group B: myopathic electromyography but biopsy normal or nondiagnostic (12 cases); group C: normal electromyography but biopsy or genetically confirmed myopathy (three cases, all with metabolic myopathy); and group D: electromyography normal and biopsy normal or nondiagnostic (25 cases). The most common diagnoses were congenital myopathy (seven cases), metabolic myopathy (six cases), muscular dystrophy (six cases), genetically confirmed myopathy (five cases), myopathy, undefined (five cases), and inflammatory myopathy (four cases).

Conclusions: Pediatric electromyography was 91% sensitive and 67% specific in myopathic disorders. The metabolic myopathies were commonly missed by electromyography.

Keywords: children; electromyography; muscle biopsy; myopathy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electromyography / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Muscular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Muscular Diseases / pathology
  • Muscular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity