Date Published:2015 Oct 1
IMPORTANCE: The sensitivity of acetylcholine receptor (AChR) antibody testing is thought to be lower in ocular myasthenia gravis (OMG) compared with generalized disease, although estimates in small-scale studies vary. There is little information in the literature about the implications of AChR antibody levels and progression from OMG to generalized myasthenia gravis. OBJECTIVES: To test the hypothesis that serum AChR antibody testing is more sensitive in OMG than previously reported and to examine the association between AChR antibody levels and progression from OMG to generalized myasthenia gravis. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A retrospective, observational cohort study was conducted of 223 patients (mean [SD] age, 59.2 [16.4] years; 139 [62.3%] male) diagnosed with OMG between July 1, 1986, and May 31, 2013, at 2 large, academic medical centers. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Baseline characteristics, OMG symptoms, results of AChR antibody testing, and progression time to generalized myasthenia gravis (if this occurred) were recorded for each patient. Multiple logistic regression was used to measure the association between all clinical variables and antibody result. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was performed to examine time to generalization. RESULTS: Among the 223 participants, AChR antibody testing results were positive in 158 participants (70.9%). In an adjusted model, increased age at diagnosis (odds ratio [OR], 1.03; 95% CI, 1.01-1.04; P = .007) and progression to generalized myasthenia gravis (OR, 2.92; 95% CI, 1.18-7.26; P = .02) were significantly associated with positive antibody test results. Women were less likely to have a positive antibody test result (OR, 0.36; 95% CI, 0.19-0.68; P = .002). Patients who developed symptoms of generalized myasthenia gravis had a significantly higher mean (SD) antibody level than those who did not develop symptoms of generalized myasthenia gravis (12.7 [16.5] nmol/L vs 4.2 [7.9] nmol/L; P = .002). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: We demonstrate a higher sensitivity of AChR antibody testing than previously reported in the largest cohort of patients with OMG available to date. Older age, male sex, and progression to generalized myasthenia gravis were significantly associated with a positive antibody test result. In addition, to our knowledge, this is the first report of an association between high AChR antibody levels and progression from OMG to generalized disease.