Thymectomy Provides Long-lasting Benefits to MG Patients

Myasthenia is a rare deadly autoimmune disease where the neuromuscular function is affected. As per the recent research, patients who go for surgery to remove the thymus gland live a quality life of up to 5 years after the treatment. The research is published in the journal The Lancet Neurology on 25th January. In the study, the researchers kept on tracking 68 patients after their thymectomy (removing thymus through surgery) for five years.

The surgery resulted in a lot of benefits like fewer visits to the hospital, improved manifestations, less need for immunosuppressive medications and fewer checkups to track the progress of the disease. These benefits allover reduced the budget on health. The report also explains the outcomes of the extension study of a subset of MG patients who were found to have a link with MGTX. It is a published international study which also confirms the benefit of thymectomy on MG patients who also did not have any chest tumor.

Approximately 60,000 American have been diagnosed with MG due to better diagnostic techniques as well as increasing age. Manifestations of MG include blurred or double vision, muscle weakness, droopy eyelids, and difficulty in swallowing, speaking and breathing.

Long-lasting benefit

“Our current findings reinforce the benefit of thymectomy seen in that original study, dispelling doubts about the procedure’s benefits and how long those benefits last,” said Gil I. Wolfe, MD, lead author of the international team that conducted the current study, Irvin and Rosemary Smith Chair of the Department of Neurology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo and president of UBMD Neurology.

“We do hope that the new findings help reverse the apparent reluctance to do thymectomy and that the proportion of patients with MG who undergo thymectomy will increase.”

Wolfe was the head and clinical chair of the main study trial -MGTX. MGTX holds immense importance in the health field as it is one of the largest and longest studies ever carried out for MG. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2016.

It was the first trial which kept on tracking the progress of patients for consecutive three years and got to know about the health benefits of removing thymus (thymectomy)) in the early stage of the disease. In the analysis of the results, the researchers compared the results of these patients with the one who had the disease but did not get their thymus removed.

The comparison was done on the basis of the progress of the disease as well as on the required amount of corticosteroid prednisone. The patients who opted for thymectomy required a much lesser amount of prednisone (third-less) in order to control the disease than those who did not go for surgical treatment. These patients also experienced a better quality of health after thymectomy.

The recent study was carried out only to observe the time duration of its effectiveness. “In prior retrospective studies, there was skepticism that the impact of thymectomy would persist beyond three to four years,” said Wolfe. “The assumption was that after that, the rates of improvement would be identical between patients who had had a thymectomy and those who had not.”

The new findings proved the assumption to be incorrect after keenly analyzing patients’ medical status, need for medications and health problems. The researchers observed patients who went through surgery had benefits up to five years with improving conditions by time. Surgical patients who took prednisone comparatively took lesser doses of steroids than the ones who refused to have surgery.

More Patients had no Activity Limitations

The findings were published on the basis of commonly known results of the disease like Quantitive MG Score (QMG) and the number of people who had no activity limitations due to the disease except weakness which is usually referred as minimal manifestations. There was a larger group of people who reached this minimal manifestation status after getting surgery.

Wolfie said: “When you look at minimal manifestation rates in patients who underwent thymectomy, they are pretty much the highest reported for any population of MG patients after five to seven years of focused management.”

He further explained that other than these benefits patients are also availing economic benefits. “We have evidence at both three and five years after surgery that the need for hospitalizations, such as intensive care admissions to treat MG exacerbations, is reduced by some two-thirds compared to medical therapy alone,” he said.

Adeena Tariq

Adeena's professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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