Muscle MRI in McArdle Disease: A European Multicenter Observational Study

Neurology. 2022 Jul 19;10.1212/WNL.0000000000200914. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200914. Online ahead of print.


Background and objectives: Glycogen storage disease type V (GSDV) or McArdle disease is a muscle glycogenosis that classically manifests with exercise intolerance and exercise-induced muscle pain. Muscle weakness and wasting may occur but is typically mild and described as located around the shoulder-girdle in elderly patients. Paraspinal muscle involvement has received little attention in the literature. The present study aimed to quantify fat-replacement of paraspinal, shoulder and lower limb muscles by magnetic resonance imaging in a European cohort of GSDV patients.

Methods: This observational study included patients with verified GSDV and healthy controls (HC). Whole-body MR-images and clinical data were collected. The degree of muscle fat-replacement was evaluated on T1-weighted images with the semi-quantitative visual Mercuri-scale, and on Dixon-images where individual muscle fat fractions (FF) were quantitatively calculated.

Results: MR-images and clinical data from a total of 57 GSDV patients (age 44.3±15.2 years) from five European centers were assessed and compared to findings in 30 HC (age 42.4±14.8 years). Patients with GSDV had significantly more fat-replacement of theparaspinal muscles compared to HC on all levels investigated detected both by the Mercuri and the Dixon methods (Dixon, paraspinal composite-FF (GSDV vs HC), at the cervical-: 31.3±13.1 vs 15.4±7.8; thoracic-: 34.5±19.0 vs 16.9±8.6 and lumbar-level: 43.9±19.6 vs 21.8±10.2 (p<0.0001)). Patients with GSDV also had significantly more fat-replacement of the shoulder muscles (evaluated by the Mercuri-scale), along with significantly, but numerically less, fat-replacement of thigh- and calf muscles compared to HC (Dixon, lower limb composite-FF (GSDV vs HC) at the thigh-: 12.0±5.6 vs 8.8±2.7 and calf-level: 13.1±6.7 vs 9.1±2.9 (p≤0.05)).

Discussion: The primary findings are that patients with GSDV exhibit severe fat-replacement of the paraspinal muscles, which can have important implications for the future management of patients with GSDV, and also significant fat-replacement of shoulder-girdle muscles as previously described. The clinical relevance of the discrete increases in lower limb FF is uncertain. The changes were found to be age-related in both groups, but an accelerated effect was found in GSDV, probably due to continuous muscle damage.