A pattern-based approach to the interpretation of skeletal muscle biopsies

Chunyu Cai, Douglas C. Anthony, Peter Pytel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The interpretation of muscle biopsies is complex and provides the most useful information when integrated with the clinical presentation of the patient. These biopsies are performed for workup of a wide range of diseases including dystrophies, metabolic diseases, and inflammatory processes. Recent insights have led to changes in the classification of inflammatory myopathies and have changed the role that muscle biopsies have in the workup of inherited diseases. These changes will be reviewed. This review follows a morphology-driven approach by discussing diseases of skeletal muscle based on a few basic patterns that include cases with (1) active myopathic damage and inflammation, (2) active myopathic damage without associated inflammation, (3) chronic myopathic changes, (4) myopathies with distinctive inclusions or vacuoles, (5) biopsies mainly showing atrophic changes, and (6) biopsies that appear normal on routine preparations. Each of these categories goes along with certain diagnostic considerations and pitfalls. Individual biopsy features are only rarely pathognomonic. Establishing a firm diagnosis therefore typically requires integration of all of the biopsy findings and relevant clinical information. With this approach, a muscle biopsy can often provide helpful information in the diagnostic workup of patients presenting with neuromuscular problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-483
Number of pages22
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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