Autoimmune neuromuscular disorders in childhood

Hugh J. McMillan, Basil T. Darras, Peter B. Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Opinion statement: Autoimmune neuromuscular disorders in childhood include Guillain-Barré syndrome and its variants, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP), juvenile myasthenia gravis (JMG), and juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM), along with other disorders rarely seen in childhood. In general, these diseases have not been studied as extensively as they have been in adults. Thus, treatment protocols for these diseases in pediatrics are often based on adult practice, but despite the similarities in disease processes, the most widely used treatments have different effects in children. For example, some of the side effects of chronic steroid use, including linear growth deceleration, bone demineralization, and chronic weight issues, are more consequential in children than in adults. Although steroids remain a cornerstone of therapy in JDM and are useful in many cases of CIDP and JMG, other immunomodulatory therapies with similar efficacy may be used more frequently in some children to avoid these long-term sequelae. Steroids are less expensive than most other therapies, but chronic steroid therapy in childhood may lead to significant and costly medical complications. Another example is plasma exchange. This treatment modality presents challenges in pediatrics, as younger children require central venous access for this therapy. However, in older children and adolescents, plasma exchange is often feasible via peripheral venous access, making this treatment more accessible than might be expected in this age group. Intravenous immunoglobulin also is beneficial in several of these disorders, but its high cost may present barriers to its use in the future. Newer steroid-sparing immunomodulatory agents, such as azathioprine, tacrolimus, mycophenolate mofetil, and rituximab, have not been studied extensively in children. They show promising results from case reports and retrospective cohort studies, but there is a need for comparative studies looking at their relative efficacy, tolerability, and long-term adverse effects (including secondary malignancy) in children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)590-607
Number of pages18
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


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