Malignant hyperthermia is a rare, inherited (genetic) disorder that
is potentially fatal. It can be triggered by exposure to certain anesthetics,
particularly the potent inhalation anesthetics and by succinylcholine (Anectine and Quelicin), a muscle
The disorder is caused by too-rapid
metabolism by the cells of certain skeletal muscle
tissue that leads to a breakdown of these muscles. Signs of malignant
hyperthermia include increased carbon dioxide in the blood and lungs and
increased blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. A rapid increase in body
temperature (hyperthermia) is frequently a late sign. If untreated, malignant
hyperthermia is usually fatal.
When triggered by anesthesia, malignant hyperthermia typically occurs
shortly after anesthesia is first given. But it can occur at any time during
anesthesia or in rare cases may occur as late as 24 hours after surgery.
Malignant hyperthermia is very rare. But you may be at an increased
chance of getting it if:
You have a medical history that suggests you had
malignant hyperthermia before.
Someone in your family has a
medical history that suggests he or she had this condition
You have rare conditions or other diseases that affect
You can have a test to help find out if you have an increased chance
of malignant hyperthermia.
People at risk of malignant hyperthermia may have a family history of
unexplained death during
anesthesia, an unexpected serious complication during
anesthesia, breakdown of muscle tissue during exercise, muscle disorders,
heatstroke, or heat intolerance.
Treatment for malignant hyperthermia includes discontinuing the
anesthesia immediately, giving the person 100% oxygen to breathe, and
administering the medicine dantrolene. The person usually needs to
continue receiving dantrolene for 12 to 48 hours and needs to be closely
watched in an intensive care unit.
If a person who is at possible risk of malignant hyperthermia needs
anesthesia, the condition can be safely and completely avoided by choosing
anesthetic agents that do not trigger malignant hyperthermia.
You can get more information about malignant hyperthermia from
the Malignant Hyperthermia Association of the United States (MHAUS). Go to the website at www.mhaus.org.