Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases (2021-05-01)

Effects of thymectomy on late-onset non-thymomatous myasthenia gravis: systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Jinwei Zhang,
  • Yuan Chen,
  • Hui Zhang,
  • Zhaoyu Yang,
  • Peng Zhang

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 16, no. 1
pp. 1 – 14


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Abstract Background The effects of thymectomy on late-onset non-thymomatous myasthenia gravis (NTMG) remain controversial. The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review in order to answer two questions pertinent to late-onset NTMG: (1) do patients with late-onset NTMG experience the same effects from thymectomy as their early-onset counterparts? (2) Compared with conservative treatment, does thymectomy have any benefits for late-onset NTMG patients? Methods We searched the PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library databases for studies published from January 1, 1950 to March 10, 2021. Outcomes were measured via clinical stable remission/pharmacological remission (CSR/PR) and improvement rates. We used Stata software to analyze the data. Results We ultimately included a total of 12 observational articles representing the best evidence answering the questions of our study objective. Of these, nine studies, which included 896 patients overall (766 early-onset and 230 late-onset), compared postoperative outcomes between early- and late-onset NTMG. The remaining three articles, which included 216 patients (75 in the thymectomy group and 141 in the conservative-treatment group), compared thymectomy with conservative treatment for late-onset NTMG. The early- versus late-onset NTMG studies demonstrated that patients in the former category were 1.95× likelier than their late-onset counterparts to achieve clinical remission (odds ratio [OR] 1.95; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.39–2.73; I 2 = 0%). No difference was seen in improvement or remission + improvement rates between these two groups. When comparing thymectomy with conservative treatments in late-onset NTMG patients, neither did we observe any difference in CSR/PR. Conclusion We found that late-onset NTMG patients had a lower chance of achieving CSR after thymectomy than early-onset patients. Thymectomy in late-onset NTMG also yielded no benefit to CSR or PR compared with conservative treatments. In late-onset NTMG patients, thymectomy should therefore be performed with caution, and the appropriate cutoff between early- and late-onset MG should be further explored in order to tailor and execute the proper therapeutic strategies.