Ventilatory muscle strength and endurance in myasthenia gravis

Eur Respir J. 1995 Jul;8(7):1130-5. doi: 10.1183/09031936.95.08071130.


Patients with generalized myasthenia gravis (MG) often have associated ventilatory muscle involvement. It is not known whether patients with isolated ocular muscle involvement have identifiable involvement of their ventilatory muscles. Most studies have assessed muscle involvement by measuring muscle strength; however, we hypothesized that measures of ventilatory muscle endurance may be more sensitive tests of ventilatory muscle involvement in myasthenia gravis. We studied 17 patients with myasthenia gravis (four with ocular involvement alone and 13 with varying degrees of generalized myasthenia gravis). Spirometry, ventilatory muscle strength (maximum inspiratory and expiratory pressures (MIP and MEP)) and endurance (2 min incremental threshold loading test) were measured before and 20 min after i.m. neostigmine. We compared the results with those of 10 normal controls. We found no difference between patients with isolated ocular involvement and controls. Ocular myasthenia gravis patients did not improve after neostigmine. The patients with generalized myasthenia gravis had reduced baseline ventilatory muscle strength (MIP 67 cmH2O (70% of predicted), MEP 86 cmH2O (50% of pred) and endurance (mean maximal load achieved = 246 g, mean pressure at highest load (P) = 19.4 cmH2O) compared with controls. After neostigmine, there was a significant increase in MIP in patients with generalized myasthenia gravis and a trend towards an increased MEP. As a group, the patients with generalized myasthenia gravis did not demonstrate a change in their ventilatory muscle endurance after neostigmine; however, there was considerable interpatient variability in response. We conclude that patients with isolated ocular MG have normal ventilatory muscle strength when tested conventionally.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myasthenia Gravis / physiopathology*
  • Neostigmine / pharmacology
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology
  • Respiratory Mechanics / drug effects
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Respiratory Muscles / drug effects
  • Respiratory Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Spirometry


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Neostigmine