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The role of muscle biopsy in investigating isolated muscle pain

Tags: etiology, medicine, diagnosis, muscle, pro

One article on PainSci cites Filosto 2007: 34 Surprising Causes of Pain

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the muscle biopsy findings from 240 patients who had isolated muscle pain.

METHODS: Histopathology, immunohistochemistry for dystrophin, dystrophin-related proteins, major histocompatibility complex type I, and biochemical analysis of glycolytic and mitochondrial respiratory chain enzymes were performed on muscle biopsies. An attempt was made to correlate pathologic data and clinical findings (sex, age, quality and distribution of symptoms, serum CK levels, and EMG recording).

RESULTS: We have described five groups of patients based on muscle biopsy.

FINDINGS: 51.6% had heterogeneous myopathic abnormalities; only 19% of them had a specific myopathic picture, i.e., central nuclei myopathy, central core disease, myopathy with tubular aggregates or with trabecular fibers or abnormalities of fiber typing; 20% had signs of respiratory chain dysfunction but only one patient had a probable mitochondrial disease; 7% had a neurogenic pattern; 2.4% had a metabolic myopathy (phosphorylase or phosphofructokinase deficiency); and 19% had normal muscle biopsy. No clear-cut correlation between muscle biopsy and clinical data was observed except for those patients with a metabolic myopathy.

CONCLUSIONS: The probability that a patient complaining only of muscle pain and with a normal neurologic examination has a definite muscle pathology is 2%. Only patients with sole exercise-related muscle pain and sCK seven times higher than the normal value are strongly suspected of having a metabolic myopathy. A rigorous selection of patients is needed before performing a muscle biopsy.

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