Muscle and neuromuscular junction disorders are a diverse group of disorders that can be difficult to diagnose. This article provides a diagnostic approach based on clinical history and neurologic examination leading to a narrow set of diagnostic tests.
Numerous discoveries in recent years have facilitated clinician access to more advanced laboratory and genetic testing to pinpoint the exact diagnosis in patients with muscle or neuromuscular junction disorders. Large-scale genetic testing has become much less expensive, and free testing has become available for many of the rare conditions because of increased research and the availability of effective therapies for these rare disorders.
The approach to muscle and neuromuscular junction disorders depends on the clinical pattern of muscle weakness. By classifying patients into one of 10 muscle patterns, diagnostic testing can be targeted and gene testing yield will be optimized. With the increased accessibility and reduced cost of genetic testing (eg, gene panels, whole-exome sequencing, whole-genome sequencing, and chromosomal microarray), this clinical approach to muscle weakness and targeted gene testing will ensure a cost-effective investigational plan. This clinical approach should also assist clinicians in making a timely and accurate diagnosis.