Background The muscle biopsy may be a fundamental technique in the suspicion of myopathy, with high specificity to distinguish between normal or abnormal muscle tissue. In association with clinical and laboratory findings, the muscle biopsy has an important role to a more accurate diagnosis.
Objectives To evaluate the usefulness and safety of muscle biopsies performed in a Rheumatology Unit in patients with suspected myopathy.
Methods Retrospective analysis of the clinical charts of patients submitted to muscle biopsy between January 2010 and December 2016 at our Rheumatology Unit. Demographic, clinical, laboratory, electromyographic and histological data were collected. The histological study was performed in a Neuropathology Specialized Unit.
Results A total of 46 patients, 19 men and 27 women, with a mean age of 53.3±17.1 years, were evaluated. Clinical manifestations included muscle weakness, myalgia and decreased muscle strength. Most patients also had increased muscle enzymes, particularly creatine kinase, but in a patient with generalized muscle atrophy, muscle enzymes were overall diminished. Of the 46 biopsies, 12 (26.1%) did not show alterations, 8 (17.4%) showed nonspecific alterations and only 1 biopsy was not conclusive because the sample was inadequate. In 4 patients, the histological features did not present specific characteristics of a myopathy, but revealed a preferential atrophy of type 2 fibbers, usually associated with prolonged corticosteroid therapy. Among the others, 9 (19.6%) were compatible with inflammatory myopathies, namely polymyositis (6), dermatomyositis (1), inclusion body myopathy (1), and localized nodular myositis (1). In the latter case, the patient had a different clinical presentation, with intermittent episodes of pain, oedema and flushing of different muscle groups. In addition, 5 metabolic myopathies (2 McArdle's diseases and 3 non-specific metabolic disorders), 2 muscular dystrophies (1 Becker's muscular dystrophy and 1 dystrophinopathy), 1 suspected case of myotonic dystrophy and 1 myopathy associated with statins use were diagnosed. In a patient with muscle weakness and prior diagnosis of systemic vasculitis, the histology showed a chronic inflammatory process with no specific alterations. In the patient with overall decrease in muscle enzymes, the biopsy revealed neurogenic atrophy, without inflammatory infiltrates. Overall, the results of electromyography (EMG) did not correlate with the histological findings, because EMG identified alterations both in cases with histologically compatible inflammatory myopathy and in cases without histological pathology. On the other hand, EMG did not reveal any changes in some of the metabolic myopathies. Muscle biopsies were performed mainly in the deltoid muscle. There were no relevant immediate or late complications with this technique.
Conclusions Although muscle biopsy is an invasive technique, it is a safe technique and allows the differential diagnosis between the various myopathies, which is fundamental to an appropriate treatment.
Michelle EH, Mammen AL. Myositis Mimics. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2015;17(63):1–8.
Barsotti S, Terenzi R et al. One year in review 2015: idiopathic inflammatory myopathies. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2015;33(5):593–601.
Disclosure of Interest None declared