Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy
- Author: Vinod Sahgal, MD; Chief Editor: Stephen Kishner, MD, MHA more...
The earliest descriptions of limb-girdle weakness are ascribed to Leyden and Möbius in 1876 and 1879, respectively. They described adult patients with a pelvic and femoral distribution of weakness and atrophy with a benign course. In 1884, Erb characterized a juvenile form of proximal muscle weakness. Erb's patient had only shoulder-girdle weakness and atrophy, with sparing of other muscles of the body and a benign disease course compared with that described by Duchenne in the 1860s. Duchenne, a French physician, initially described a condition of progressive lethal wasting of degenerative skeletal muscle, which was later referred to as Duchenne muscular dystrophy. At that time, the differentiation between the spinal muscular atrophies and weakness associated with central nervous system disorders and primary muscle disease had not been established.
In 1891, Erb put forward the concept of muscular dystrophies as a primary degeneration of muscle and coined the term "dystrophia muscularis progressiva." Erb's description was followed by various attempts at classifying these dystrophic disorders. In 1909, Batten classified primary muscle disease into the following 7 categories, which are still used today :
Simple atrophy [1, 2]
Duchenne pseudohypertrophic variety
Erb juvenile weakness
Fascioscapulohumeral dystrophy 
Distal myopathy [7, 8]
Between 1909 and 1954, many individual case reports of primary muscle disease with a limb-girdle distribution of weakness were published. In 1954, when Walton and Nattrass reported 105 cases of limb-girdle weakness associated with many other disorders, the nosologic entity of limb-girdle dystrophy was formally established. Walton and Nattrass described the disease as a progressive muscle weakness with atrophy involving predominantly proximal muscles (eg, pelvis, shoulder). They described the disease as having a variable age of onset in the late first, second, third, fourth, or fifth decade of life; a slow clinical progression; and an autosomal recessive or autosomal dominant form of inheritance. See image below.
The development of sophisticated diagnostic tools of histology, histochemistry, ultrastructure, electrodiagnosis, and genetic studies has since shown that the entity, as originally described, is composed of a variety of neuromuscular disorders (eg, spinal muscular atrophy, polymyositis, endocrine disorders, metabolic conditions, congenital myopathies). Since the original descriptions of the condition, reports of many sporadic cases have been published with this pattern of muscle weakness associated with many other disorders.
Thus, the concept of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD) as a nosologic entity was challenged, and now it is fair to consider it a symptom complex that consists of at least 4 disorders with varied inheritance patterns and etiologies. Therefore, importantly, the clinical features, the inheritance pattern, and the exclusion of other entities should define the disorders of LGMD.
Molecular genetics of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD)
Skeletal muscle consists of 2 major components: the sarcolemma and the sarcomeres. The sarcolemma is the sheath that covers the sarcomeres; it is composed of the plasma and basement membranes and the reticular lamina, which contains collagen. The sarcomeres represent the contractile element, which is composed of actin, myosin, and Z-band proteins (see image below). These proteins, like all others, are genetically coded and have a specific structure and distribution. Advances in molecular genetics have help in the discovery of significant information on the relationship between muscle biology and clinical neuromuscular diseases. This is very well exemplified in the shift from descriptive classifications of neuromuscular diseases to molecular pathobiologic classifications of neuromuscular diseases.[10, 11]
This concept is best observed in regard to our understanding of the very heterogeneous LGMD syndromes. These syndromes are now classified on the basis of at least 15 identified genes—5 autosomal dominant and 10 autosomal recessive. The 5 dominant genes are associated with the components of sarcomeres. The 10 recessive genes are associated with the plasma basement membrane and the adjacent reticular lamina, which contains the fibrillary collagen.[12, 13]
See the descriptions of each type of LGMD in the History section.
Exact figures are not available. The frequency of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy in the general population cannot be estimated because of the heterogenous nature of this group of disorders (see Background).
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy is associated with low mortality and morbidity.
No racial predilection is described for limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy may show an autosomal recessive or sporadic method of inheritance.
Some forms of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy dramatically affect young adults, while other types progress so slowly that they are not detected until much later in life.
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