The Musculoskeletal Manifestations of Marfan Syndrome: Diagnosis, Impact, and Management

Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2021 Nov 26;23(11):81. doi: 10.1007/s11926-021-01045-3.


Purpose of review: Marfan syndrome (MFS) is an autosomal dominant heritable disorder of fibrillin-1 (FBN1) with predominantly ocular, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal manifestations that has a population prevalence of approximately 1 in 5-10,000 (Chiu et al. Mayo Clin Proc. 89(1):34-42, 146, Dietz 3, Loeys et al. J Med Genet. 47(7):476-85, 4).

Recent findings: The vascular complications of MFS still pose the greatest threat, but effective management options, such as regular cardiac monitoring and elective surgical intervention, have reduced the risk of life-threatening cardiovascular events, such as aortic dissection. Although cardiovascular morbidity and mortality remains high, these improvements in cardiovascular management have extended the life expectancy of those with MFS by perhaps 30-50 years from an estimated mean of 32 years in 1972 (Dietz 3, Gott et al. Eur J Cardio-thoracic Surg. 10(3):149-58, 147, Murdoch et al. N Engl J Med. 286(15):804-8, 148). The musculoskeletal manifestations of MFS, which to date have received less attention, can also have a significant impact on the quality of life and are likely to become more important as the age of the Marfan syndrome population increases (Hasan et al. Int J Clin Pract. 61(8):1308-1320, 127). In addition, musculoskeletal manifestations are often critically important in the diagnosis of MFS. Here, we review the main clinically relevant and diagnostically useful musculoskeletal features of MFS, which together contribute to the "systemic features score" (referred to hereafter as systemic score), part of the revised Ghent nosology for MFS. We discuss current treatment strategies and highlight the need for a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and management. Finally, we review new pharmacological approaches that may be disease modifying and could help to improve the outcome for individuals with this syndrome.

Keywords: Arachnodactyly; Dural ectasia; Marfan syndrome; Pectus deformity; Scoliosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Marfan Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Marfan Syndrome* / therapy
  • Quality of Life