Two-step nationwide epidemiological survey of myasthenia gravis in Japan 2018

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Objective To study the updated prevalence and clinical features of myasthenia gravis (MG) in Japan during 2017. Methods We sent survey sheets to the randomly selected medical departments (number = 7,545). First, we asked the number of MG patients who visited medical departments from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017. Then, we sent the second survey sheet to the medical departments that answered the first survey to obtain the clinical information of patients who received MG diagnosis between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2017. Results The received answer to the first survey were 2,708 (recovery rate: 35.9%). After all, the prevalence of the 100,000 population was estimated as 23.1 (95%CI: 20.5-25.6). As a result of the second survey, we obtained 1,464 case records. After checking the duplications and lacking data, we utilized 1,195 data for further analysis. The median [interquartile range (IQR)] from the onset age of total patients was 59 (43-70) years old. The male-female ratio was 1: 1.15. The onset age [median (IQR)] for female patients was 58 (40-72) years old, and that for male patients was 60 (49-69) years old (Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test, p = 0.0299). We divided patients into four categories: 1) anti-acetylcholine receptor antibody (AChRAb) (+) thymoma (Tm) (-), 2) AChRAb(+)Tm(+), 3) anti-muscle-specific kinase antibody (MuSKAb) (+), and AChRAb(-)MuSKAb(-) (double negative; DN). The onset age [median (IQR)] of AChRAb(+)Tm(-) was 64 (48-73) years old, and AChRb(+)Tm(+) was 55 (45-66), MuSKAb(+) was 49 (36-64), DN was 47 (35-60) year old. The multivariate logistic regression analysis using sex, initial symptoms, repetitive nerve stimulation test (RNST), and edrophonium test revealed that sex, ocular symptoms, bulbar symptoms, and RNST were factors to distinguish each category. The myasthenia gravis activities of daily living profile at the severest state were significantly higher in MuSKAb(+). MuSKAb(+) frequently received prednisolone, tacrolimus plasmapheresis, and intravenous immunoglobulin; however, they received less acetylcholine esterase inhibitor. 99.2% of AChRAb(+)Tm(+) and 15.4% of AChRAb(+)Tm(-) received thymectomy. MuSKAb(+) did not receive thymectomy, and only 5.7% of DN received thymectomy. The prognosis was favorable in all categories. Conclusion Our result revealed that the prevalence of Japanese MG doubled from the previous study using the same survey method in 2006. We also found that the onset age shifted to the elderly, and the male-female ratio reached almost even. Classification in four categories; AChRAb(+)Tm(-), AChRAb(+)Tm(+), MuSKAb(+), and DN, well describe the specific clinical features of each category and differences in therapeutic approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0274161
JournalPloS one
Issue number9 September
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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