Thoracic Surgery

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Diseases & Conditions

Myasthenia Gravis

At Boston Medical Center's Division of Thoracic Surgery, we treat a broad range of conditions, including myasthenia gravis. We combine medical excellence, technologically advanced facilities and equipment, and a patient-centered approach to provide fast, accurate diagnoses and effective treatments.

What is Myasthenia Gravis?

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a chronic neuromuscular condition that causes weakness in your voluntary muscles (skeletal muscles) that worsens with activity and improves with rest. It is caused by an abnormal response in your immune system.

The weakness occurs when the nerve impulses that initiate or sustain movement do not adequately reach the muscle cells because your immune system targets your body's own cells. This is called an autoimmune response. Your immune system produces antibodies that attach to your own cells, which prevents your muscles from receiving the message from your nerves.

Myasthenia gravis affects about three out of every 10,000 people in the United States. It can occur at any time, but is more common in young women and older men.

Diagnostic Procedures

What are the Symptoms?

The earliest symptoms of myasthenia gravis usually affect vision and include:

Other symptoms include:

What Causes Myasthenia Gravis?

The cause of myasthenia gravis is unknown. Scientists believe that the thymus gland, which is part of the immune system, produces antibodies that target your own cells. Typically, the thymus is large in infants and children and small in healthy adults. However, the thymus is abnormally large in some adults with myasthenia gravis. In addition, some people with myasthenia gravis have tumors of the thymus. Most often, these are noncancerous.

Factors that can make myasthenia gravis worse include:

How is it Diagnosed?

The first method of diagnosis is the physical exam and medical history. Your physician will ask you a series of questions and examine you. The main indication of myasthenia gravis is weakness that worsens with activity and improves with rest. Tests your physician may order to confirm the diagnosis include:

Your physician will also order a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

How is Myasthenia Gravis Treated?

After a careful evaluation of your condition, we will recommend the treatment that is appropriate to your particular circumstances. Doctors use a variety of treatments—alone or in combination—to relieve symptoms of myasthenia gravis.

Treatment for myasthenia gravis includes:

There are several techniques for performing a thymectomy, including:

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Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

Boston Medical Center
Center for Thoracic Surgery
Moakley Building
830 Harrison Avenue, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02118

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Fax: 617.638.7382

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88 East Newton Street
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Boston, MA 02118
Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

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