Malignant hyperthermia refers to a life-threatening response when a person is exposed to specific anesthetic drugs. To know more about this condition, read on…
Malignant hyperthermia (MHS) refers to a harmful reaction that occurs after a person is given general anesthesia during surgery. In rare cases, it can also happen due to a heat stroke or extreme exercise. This is an inherited disorder that typically runs in families. Abnormal mutation in genes is believed to be responsible for causing this fatal reaction, especially after inhaling volatile anesthetic agents.
Following are the MHS symptoms that are observed for the first time when the patient receives an anesthetic dose:
- Muscle contraction and rigidity
- Rhabdomyolysis (destruction of skeletal muscle)
- Rapid increase in body temperature; fever can go beyond 110 degree F
- Urine color changes to dark brown
- Muscle ache; pain in hands and legs
- Irregular heartbeat
Some patients also show neurological symptoms like seizures that are accompanied by low blood pressure. These symptoms are generally noticed within an hour, after the medication is administered.
Although an inherited condition, people suffering from muscle disorders such as central core disease and getting exposed to anesthetic agents, are at increased risk of MHS. Drugs that are known to trigger this severe reaction are inhaled anesthetics that include enflurane, sevoflurane, desflurane and isoflurane. Medications such as succinylcholine, that is commonly used as a muscle relaxant at the time of surgery, can also cause MHS.
The doctors must act fast so that the condition does not worsen. As soon as the symptoms are detected, the first and foremost step is to immediately stop the anesthetic medication to prevent any further complications. Considering the patient’s sensitivity to anesthetic agents, the surgery should also be postponed. In such cases, doctors give a medicine (Dantrolene) to stabilize the condition of the patient.
The drug dantrolene relaxes the muscles and helps to reduce the impact of this reaction. Initially, dantrolene is administered intravenously to improve the condition. Once the patient’s condition improves, the medication is continued in pill form for a few days. Beta-blockers may also be recommended to treat heart problems.
In order to reduce fever, you can take the help of cooling blankets and tepid sponging. Other treatment options include administering oxygen and monitoring the patient’s conditions in an intensive care unit.
If left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening complications like brain hemorrhage, internal bleeding, kidney failure, accumulation of fluid in lungs that causes breathing problems, and cardiac arrest.
If the treatment is given on time, MHS symptoms will go away within 24 hours. However, the damage caused by this fatal reaction can be permanent, in case the treatment is delayed.
One way to prevent this fatal reaction is by notifying the doctor about your sensitivity to anesthesia, so that he avoids using high-risk anesthetics. A number of safe, alternative anesthetics have been developed that do not trigger any reaction. Therefore, informing the anesthesiologist about your health and family history before any surgery is an absolute must.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.