Anesthetic and surgical complications in 219 cases of myotonic dystrophy

Neurology. 1997 Dec;49(6):1646-50. doi: 10.1212/wnl.49.6.1646.


The objective of this study was to assess the frequency, type, and severity of perioperative complications after a first surgery under general anesthesia in patients with myotonic dystrophy (DM) and to measure the association with suspected risk factors. Numerous cases of perioperative complications in DM patients have been reported. Hazards have been associated with the use of thiopentone, suxamethonium, neostigmine, and halothane. A retrospective study of perioperative complications was conducted for 219 DM patients who had their first surgery under general anesthesia at the Chicoutimi Hospital. The overall frequency of complications was 8.2% (18 of 219). Most complications (16 of 18) were pulmonary, including five patients with acute ventilatory failure necessitating ventilatory support, four patients with atelectasis, and three patients with pneumonia. Using multivariate analysis, we found that the risk of perioperative pulmonary complications (PPC) was significantly higher after an upper abdominal surgery (odds ratio (OR), 24.4; 95% CI, 4.0 to 149.3) and for patients with a severe muscular disability, as assessed by the presence of proximal limb weakness (OR, 14.1; 95% CI, 1.5 to 134.4). The likelihood of PPC was not related to any specific anesthetic drug. Because of the increased risk of PPC, careful monitoring during the early postoperative period, protection of upper airways, chest physiotherapy, and incentive spirometry are mandatory in all symptomatic DM patients, particularly those with a severe muscular disability or those who have undergone an upper abdominal surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anesthetics, General / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications*
  • Lung Diseases / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Myotonic Dystrophy / physiopathology
  • Myotonic Dystrophy / surgery*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Anesthetics, General