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Muscle Cramps and Neuropathies in Patients with Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation and Graft-versus-Host Disease

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      ObjectiveGraft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is an immune-mediated multisystemic disorder and the leading cause of morbidity after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Peripheral nervous system manifestations of GVHD are rare but often disabling. Whereas immune-mediated neuropathies are an established feature of GVHD, muscle cramps are not well characterized.MethodsIn a single-centre retrospective cohort we studied 27 patients (age 23 to 69 years) with GVHD (acute n = 6, chronic n = 21) who complained of symptoms suggestive of peripheral nervous system complications. Clinical, laboratory and neurophysiological findings were evaluated by descriptive statistics and regression analysis to detect factors associated with muscle cramps. Patient’s sera were examined for anti-neuronal antibodies.ResultsNine patients had polyneuropathy, 4 had muscle cramps, and 14 had both. Median onset of polyneuropathy and muscle cramps was 6 and 9 months after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, respectively. Neurophysiology revealed a predominantly axonal polyneuropathy in 20 of 26 patients. In 4 of 19 patients electromyography showed signs of myopathy or myositis. Muscle cramps were more frequent during chronic than acute GVHD and affected muscles other than calves in 15 of 18 patients. They typically occurred daily, lasted 1 to 10 minutes with medium to severe pain intensity, compromised daily activity or sleep in 12, and were refractory to therapy in 4 patients. Muscle cramps were less likely with tacrolimus treatment and signs of severe polyneuropathy, but more likely with myopathic changes in electromyography and with incipient demyelinating polyneuropathy, shown by increased high frequency attenuation of the tibial nerve. Serological studies revealed antinuclear or antimitochondrial antibodies in a subset of patients. Two of 16 patients had a serum reactivity against peripheral nervous tissue.ConclusionMuscle cramps are associated with chronic GVHD, often compromise daily activity, and correlate negatively with axonal polyneuropathy and positively with myopathy and incipient demyelination.

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      Most cited references 40

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      National Institutes of Health consensus development project on criteria for clinical trials in chronic graft-versus-host disease: I. Diagnosis and staging working group report.

      This consensus document is intended to serve 3 functions. First, it standardizes the criteria for diagnosis of chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Second, it proposes a new clinical scoring system (0-3) that describes the extent and severity of chronic GVHD for each organ or site at any given time, taking functional impact into account. Third, it proposes new guidelines for global assessment of chronic GVHD severity that are based on the number of organs or sites involved and the degree of involvement in affected organs (mild, moderate, or severe). Diagnosis of chronic GVHD requires the presence of at least 1 diagnostic clinical sign of chronic GVHD (e.g., poikiloderma or esophageal web) or the presence of at least 1 distinctive manifestation (e.g., keratoconjunctivitis sicca) confirmed by pertinent biopsy or other relevant tests (e.g., Schirmer test) in the same or another organ. Furthermore, other possible diagnoses for clinical symptoms must be excluded. No time limit is set for the diagnosis of chronic GVHD. The Working Group recognized 2 main categories of GVHD, each with 2 subcategories. The acute GVHD category is defined in the absence of diagnostic or distinctive features of chronic GVHD and includes (1) classic acute GVHD occurring within 100 days after transplantation and (2) persistent, recurrent, or late acute GVHD (features of acute GVHD occurring beyond 100 days, often during withdrawal of immune suppression). The broad category of chronic GVHD includes (1) classic chronic GVHD (without features or characteristics of acute GVHD) and (2) an overlap syndrome in which diagnostic or distinctive features of chronic GVHD and acute GVHD appear together. It is currently recommended that systemic therapy be considered for patients who meet criteria for chronic GVHD of moderate to severe global severity.
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        Graft-versus-host disease.

        Haemopoietic-cell transplantation (HCT) is an intensive therapy used to treat high-risk haematological malignant disorders and other life-threatening haematological and genetic diseases. The main complication of HCT is graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), an immunological disorder that affects many organ systems, including the gastrointestinal tract, liver, skin, and lungs. The number of patients with this complication continues to grow, and many return home from transplant centres after HCT requiring continued treatment with immunosuppressive drugs that increases their risks for serious infections and other complications. In this Seminar, we review our understanding of the risk factors and causes of GHVD, the cellular and cytokine networks implicated in its pathophysiology, and current strategies to prevent and treat the disease. We also summarise supportive-care measures that are essential for management of this medically fragile population.
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          1994 Consensus Conference on Acute GVHD Grading.

          Grading acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is usually based on quantification of rash, serum bilirubin and diarrhea. Standard criteria have been developed and used for > 20 years by most transplant centers. However, neither the standard GVHD grading system nor any of several revisions has been validated in the context of GVHD prophylaxis with cyclosporine. The 1994 Consensus Conference on Acute GVHD Grading held in Keystone in January 1994 provided an opportunity to: (1) review data regarding these standard criteria; (2) determine if there are sufficient data to revise these criteria; and (3) develop recommendations for reporting results of GVHD prevention trials. Data were provided for 8249 patients from 12 large transplant centers and 2 transplant registries. Standard GVHD grading criteria were found to distinguish different mortality risks and treatment response rates. Analysis of new data suggested that persistent nausea with histologic evidence of GVHD but no diarrhea be included as stage 1 gastrointestinal GVHD. Additional studies were recommended to evaluate heterogeneity of outcome within GVHD grades prior to making further revisions. To improve comparability between publications, reports of GVHD prevention trials should include an accurate description of the grading system used and should report actuarial rates of grades II-IV and III-IV GVHD corrected for graft failure and potential interventions for early relapse. Additional information should include indications for therapy of GVHD and response.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Neurology, University Medical Centre Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
            [2 ]Department of Hematology and Clinical Oncology, University Medical Centre Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
            [3 ]Division of Molecular Neuroimmunology, Department of Neurology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
            [4 ]Institute for Experimental Neuroimmunology, affiliated to Euroimmun, Lübeck, Germany
            [5 ]Department of Neurology, St. Josef-Hospital, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
            Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Germany
            Author notes

            Competing Interests: The authors have read the journal's policy and have the following conflicts. K.P.W. is an employee of Euroimmun AG, Lübeck, Germany, and holds stock in Euroimmun. There are no patents, products in development or marketed products to declare. This does not alter the authors’ adherence to all the PLoS ONE policies on sharing data and materials, as detailed online in the guide for authors.

            Conceived and designed the experiments: DW IK. Performed the experiments: PDK DW OG KA SJ KPW IK. Analyzed the data: PDK DW SJ KPW WS-M IK. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: KPW. Wrote the paper: PDK DW OG KA SJ KPW EH WS-M IK.


            Current address: Department of Neurology, Division of Inflammatory Diseases of the CNS and Neurooncology, University of Münster, Münster, Germany

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