Friday Board Review

Board Review by Dr. Hilbmann (Edited by Dr. Parikh)

A 43-year-old female with a past medical history of myasthenia gravis presents to the emergency department with shortness of breath. She was just diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and being treated by her PCP with antibiotics. Prior to her developing dyspnea, the patient also mentions experiencing blurry vision and difficulty chewing. She appears in respiratory distress on exam with an SpO2 of 83% on room air. After intubation, what is the most urgent treatment for this patient?

  1. Ceftriaxone with Azithromycin
  2. Methylprednisolone
  3. Physostigmine
  4. Plasma Exchange

Answer is D.  Given this patient’s past medical history and symptoms she is most likely in myasthenic crisis, possibly exacerbated by her recent UTI. Ceftriaxone and Azithromycin (A) which could be used to treat community acquired pneumonia would not be helpful in this patient. While corticosteroids (B) are utilized in patients with myasthenic crisis, 60-80 mg of prednisone is usually the corticosteroid of choice, this treatment would not rapidly change the patient’s clinical status. Physostigmine (C.) is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor often utilized for anticholinergic toxicity. Pyridostigmine is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor often used as long acting treatment for myasthenia gravis. Treatment for myasthenic crisis includes treating any contributing factors (infection), beginning rapid therapy with plasma exchange or IVIG, and high dose steroids or other immunomodulators. You may want to consider discontinuing acetylcholinesterase inhibitors medications temporarily (as they can increase respiratory secretions) until beginning immunomodulating therapy. 


Wendell LC, Levine JM. Myasthenic crisis. Neurohospitalist. 2011 Jan;1(1):16-22. doi: 10.1177/1941875210382918. PMID: 23983833; PMCID: PMC3726100.

Myasthenia Gravis (no date) REBEL EM – Emergency Medicine Blog. Available at: (Accessed: 11 April 2024). 

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