Which clinical history findings are characteristic of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type I - acute infantile or Werdnig-Hoffman disease?

Updated: May 29, 2019
  • Author: Jeffrey Rosenfeld, MD, PhD, FAAN; Chief Editor: Stephen L Nelson, Jr, MD, PhD, FAACPDM, FAAN, FAAP  more...
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Patients present before 6 months of age, with 95% of patients having signs and symptoms by 3 months. They have severe, progressive muscle weakness and flaccid or reduced muscle tone (hypotonia). Bulbar dysfunction includes poor suck ability, reduced swallowing, and respiratory failure. Patients have no involvement of the extraocular muscles, and facial weakness is often minimal or absent. They have no evidence of cerebral involvement, and infants appear alert.

Reports of impaired fetal movements are observed in 30% of cases, and 60% of infants with SMA type I are floppy babies at birth. Prolonged cyanosis may be noted at delivery. In some instances, the disease can cause fulminant weakness in the first few days of life. Such severe weakness and early bulbar dysfunction are associated with short life expectancy, with a mean survival of 5.9 months. In 95% of cases, infants die from complications of the disease by 18 months.

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