INTRODUCTION: Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by dysautonomia in combination with parkinsonian and cerebellar signs. Stridor may also occur and it is associated with life-threatening events and poor prognosis. The pathophysiology of stridor in MSA is still debated.
OBJECTIVE: To define correlations between diurnal electromyographic (EMG) abnormalities of vocal cord muscles and stridor in MSA phenotypes.
METHODS: We recruited 60 patients with "probable" MSA (45 with parkinsonian [MSA-P] and 15 with cerebellar phenotype [MSA-C]). Nocturnal stridor was detected with video-polysomnography, whereas diurnal stridor was clinically noted when present. A diurnal kinesiologic EMG study of the adductor thyroarytenoid and the abductor posterior cricoarytenoid muscles was also performed.
RESULTS: Among subjects with nocturnal stridor, MSA-P patients predominantly showed a paradoxical burst-like activation of the adductor thyroarytenoid muscle during inspiration. This dystonic pattern was associated with nocturnal stridor in MSA-P (odds ratio [OR] = 23.64, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.42-70.77, p < 0.001). Conversely, MSA-C patients with nocturnal stridor mainly had additional neurogenic findings of vocal cord muscles. This dystonic-plus pattern correlated with nocturnal stridor in MSA-C (OR = 17.21, 95% CI 4.17-74.92, p < 0.01). The findings of diurnal stridor paralleled the observations for nocturnal stridor.
CONCLUSIONS: The pathophysiology of stridor may differ between MSA phenotypes, possibly related to dysfunctional supranuclear mechanisms in MSA-P (dystonic pattern) and to additional nuclear damage in MSA-C (dystonic-plus pattern).