Halothane-caffeine contracture testing in neuromuscular diseases

Muscle Nerve. 1988 May;11(5):453-7. doi: 10.1002/mus.880110507.


The association of malignant hyperthermia (MH) with neuromuscular disorders has been recognized since 1970. These disorders include central core disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, myotonia congenita, myotonic dystrophy, nonspecific myopathies, and King-Denborough syndrome. In order to assess the anesthetic risk of MH in the neuromuscular population, we performed halothane and caffeine contracture testing for MH susceptibility on biopsied muscle removed from 25 consecutive neuromuscular patients during diagnostic evaluation. Positive contracture tests were found in 7 of 18 patients with myopathic disorders and 3 of 7 patients with neurogenic disorders. Two of our patients had anesthetic events suggesting MH. These findings suggest that myopathic and neuropathic disorders share pathogenic mechanisms with MH, resulting in positive contracture tests and possibly leading to clinical events during anesthesia. Although there is controversy regarding the interpretation of a positive contracture test, contracture testing remains the most widely accepted test for MH susceptibility. Thus, a variety of neuromuscular disorders may be associated with MH susceptibility, and caution should be exercised during anesthesia in this group of patients.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Halothane / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Malignant Hyperthermia / diagnosis*
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects*
  • Muscles / drug effects*
  • Muscles / pathology
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Risk Factors


  • Caffeine
  • Halothane