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Spinal muscular atrophy
Alternative namesWerdnig-Hoffmann disease
DefinitionA group of inherited diseases that cause progressive muscle degeneration and weakness , eventually leading to death.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is the second leading cause of neuromuscular disease. It is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait (a person needs to get the defective gene from both parents to be affected) and has an incidence of approximately 4 per 100,000 people.
SMA III is the least severe form of the disease, and symptoms may not appear until the second year of life. Often, weakness is first noted in the shoulder muscles and proximal leg muscles. Weakness is progressive and will eventually become profound, but children with type III disease may survive into early adulthood.
Rarely, SMA may begin in adulthood. This is usually a milder form of the disease. This form may be inherited in an autosomal dominant (only one copy of the gene is needed for the disease to occur) or autosomal recessive manner.
Family history of spinal muscular atrophy is a risk factor for all types of the disorder.
In an infant:
In a child:
Signs and tests
There is no treatment for the progressive weakness caused by the disease. Supportive care is important. Attention must be paid to the respiratory system as affected people have difficulty clearing secretions; respiratory complications are common.
Physiotherapy is important to prevent contractures and scoliosis . Bracing may be necessary.
Expectations (prognosis)The most severe form of spinal muscular atrophy is fatal early on. The less severe form is compatible with a longer lifespan. However, progressive weakness and debility are present in all forms.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if your child appears weak, has difficulty feeding, or develops any other symptoms of spinal muscular atrophy. Breathing difficulty can rapidly become an emergency condition.
PreventionGenetic counseling is recommended for prospective parents with a family history of spinal muscular atrophy.
Update Date: 7/28/2002Elaine T. Kiriakopoulos, M.D., MSc, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT