A 72-year-old man suffering from arthritis received a total dose of 500 mg sodium aurothiomalate during a period of 5 months. His clinical state then deteriorated and he had to be hospitalized. Upon admission he was bedridden, his level of consciousness was slightly impaired, he was confused and respiration was laboured. Continuous muscle activity was noted on all extremities and at first, erroneously, fasciculations were diagnosed. The EMG exhibited continuous muscle fibre activity consisting of duplets, triplets and multiplets. The discharges occurred in an irregular pattern; when various muscles were examined at the same time no synchronicity could be observed between muscle discharges. In the left m. deltoideus an increased percentage of polyphasic potentials was found, whereas mean duration of motor unit potentials was normal. Spontaneous activity remained unchanged during sleep and administration of intravenous diazepam or phenytoin. Blocking of ulnar nerve at either elbow or wrist level did not stop spontaneous activity in m. abductor digiti quinti. Ischaemia increased the amount of discharges after 7 min. Within 4 months after termination of gold therapy the patient's condition improved and he was discharged from hospital. Regular EMG follow-up after 8 months showed complete cessation of abnormal spontaneous activities. Nerve conduction velocities were normal except for markedly reduced compound action potential in peroneal nerves. Continuous muscle fibre activity as a side-effect of gold therapy is described.
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