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Limb-girdle weakness in a marfanoid man: distinguishing calpainopathy from Becker's muscular dystrophy
  1. Gasnat Shaboodien1,2,
  2. David A Watkins1,2,
  3. Komala Pillay3,
  4. Peter Beighton4,
  5. Jeannine M Heckmann5,
  6. Bongani M Mayosi1,2
  1. 1Cardiovascular Genetics Laboratory, Hatter Institute of Cardiovascular Research in Africa, Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2Department of Medicine, Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  3. 3Division of Anatomical Pathology, Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, National Health Laboratory Service and University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  4. 4Division of Human Genetics, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  5. 5Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jeannine M Heckmann, Division of Neurology, University of Cape Town, E8-74, New Groote Schuur Hospital, Observatory, Cape Town 7925, South Africa; jeanine.heckmann{at}

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Case report

A 24-year-old man had experienced hip-girdle weakness since the age of 15 years and exercise-induced muscle cramps with ‘toe-walking’ since aged 12 years. He was thought to have Marfan's syndrome but had no known family history of muscle disease. His marfanoid features prompted a transthoracic echocardiogram at 18 years, showing a normal aortic root and cardiac size/function without mitral valve prolapse.

On examination at the age of 24, he was tall (6 feet, 7 inches; 201 cm) with an asthenic habitus, disproportionate arm length to height (1.06), high-arched palate, arachnodactyly, marked pectus excavatum and pes planus, but no other features of Marfan's syndrome. Neuromuscular examination showed hypertrophy of calf muscles and shortening of the Achilles’ tendons as well as selective atrophy of the sternal heads of sternocleidomastoid muscles, proximal arms and quadriceps muscles. There was no scapular winging. The limb-girdle pattern of weakness was of moderate severity (Medical Research Council (MRC) grade 3) in the hip extensors and adductors, and knee flexors and mild weakness (MRC grade 4) in neck flexors, hip flexors and abductors, as well as knee extensors. The strength in other muscle groups and the remaining neurological examination, including tendon reflexes, was normal.

He remained fully ambulant and functional at the age of 31 years, albeit with a moderately waddling gait.

His 12-lead ECG at age 24 was abnormal, with a right-bundle branch pattern and a prominent R wave in chest lead V2. Echocardiography showed borderline dilatation and reduced function of both ventricles. The ECG and echocardiogram were unchanged when re-examined 7 years later.

Laboratory tests showed a serum creatine kinase of 1640 IU/L (>10 times the upper limit of normal). Biopsy of the quadriceps femoris showed an increase in endomysial connective tissue, infiltration of adipose tissue and focal necrotic fibres. Immunohistochemistry showed normal spectrin and caveolin staining but decreased intensity (∼50%) in the …

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  • Contributors All the authors had access to the data and a role in the writing of the manuscript. GS and JMH wrote the draft manuscript. KP provided the muscle biopsy text. DAW, BMM and PB contributed to the drafting of the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was funded in part by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and the Lily and Ernst Hausmann Research Trust.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval University of Cape Town Health Sciences Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed. This paper was reviewed by Jon Walters, Swansea, UK.

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