Role of Nerve and Muscle Biopsies in Pediatric Patients in the Era of Genetic Testing

Kaili Yang, Susan Iannaccone, Lorrie S. Burkhalter, Joan Reisch, Chunyu Cai, David Schindel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: An operative biopsy is an important component in the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disorders (NMDs). However, recent advances in molecular genetics suggest less invasive genetic testing should be the initial approach. The purpose of our study was to demonstrate the diagnostic value of muscle or nerve biopsy within the pediatric population at a pediatric academic center and offer recommendations for genetic testing in relation to biopsy to achieve the highest diagnostic yield. Methods: Following institutional review board approval, we retrospectively reviewed the electronic medical record of 221 pediatric patients who underwent muscle and/or nerve biopsy for suspicion of NMD from January 2007 to March 2018. Demographics, family history, clinical presentations, genetic testing results, pathology results, anesthesia complications, clinical diagnoses, and clinic follow-up data were collected. Chi-square analysis was done for statistical significance. Results: A total of 220 underwent muscle biopsy, and 15 underwent nerve biopsy. Not all patients received genetic testing. The average age at biopsy was 7.7 y. Biopsy revealed significant histologic abnormalities in 62.9% (139), directly leading to a specific clinical diagnosis in 33.9% (75). When genetic testing was done before biopsy, definite pathogenic variants were found in 7.6% (9). When genetic testing was done after biopsy, definite pathogenic variants were found in 45.0% (27). Genetic testing yield for pathogenic variants was higher when done after biopsy (P value < 0.00001). Conclusions: Muscle and nerve biopsies may provide significant diagnostic value. Biopsy helped to rule in or out NMD and guide genetic testing. Our data suggest NMD genetic testing yield was higher when done after biopsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-32
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Genetic testing
  • Muscle biopsy
  • Nerve biopsy
  • Pediatric neuromuscular disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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