Mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy: diagnosis by rectal biopsy

Am J Surg Pathol. 1998 Sep;22(9):1141-7. doi: 10.1097/00000478-199809000-00014.


A 14-year-old girl with the mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalopathy syndrome had an 8-year history of intestinal pseudoobstruction with abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, gastric and duodenal dilatation, and duodenal diverticulosis. The child appeared chronically malnourished and had severe growth failure. Multisystem involvement was evident with the presence of ptosis, external ophthalmoplegia, muscle wasting, peripheral neuropathy, and diffuse white matter disease seen on magnetic resonance imaging. Lactic acidosis and increased cerebrospinal fluid protein were observed. Mitochondrial enzyme analysis of fresh-frozen skeletal muscle revealed a respiratory chain defect. Molecular genetic studies showed multiple mitochondrial DNA deletions. Pathologic findings in the intestine included atrophy of the external layer of the muscularis propria and an increased number of abnormal-appearing mitochondria in ganglion and smooth-muscle cells. Microvesicular steatosis was observed in liver, skeletal, and gastrointestinal smooth muscle, and Schwann cells of peripheral nerve. Brightly eosinophilic inclusions in the cytoplasm of gastrointestinal ganglion cells were visible by light microscopy, which were confirmed to be megamitochondria by ultrastructural studies. This is the first report of abnormal mitochondria observed in intestinal ganglion and smooth-muscle cells in this syndrome.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biopsy / methods
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction / pathology*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mitochondrial Myopathies / pathology*
  • Muscles / pathology
  • Rectum / innervation
  • Rectum / pathology*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial