Background: Neuromuscular disorders are a phenotypically and genotypically diverse group of diseases that can be difficult to diagnose accurately because of overlapping clinical features and nonspecific muscle pathology. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a high-throughput technology that can be used as a more time- and cost-effective tool for identifying molecular diagnoses for complex genetic conditions, such as neuromuscular disorders.
Methods: One hundred and sixty-nine patients referred to a Canadian neuromuscular clinic for evaluation of possible muscle disease were screened with an NGS panel of muscular dystrophy–associated genes. Patients were categorized by the reason of referral (1) muscle weakness (n=135), (2) recurrent episodes of rhabdomyolysis (n=18), or (3) idiopathic hyperCKemia (n=16). Results: Pathogenic and likely pathogenic variants were identified in 36.09% of patients (61/169). The detection rate was 37.04% (50/135) in patients with muscle weakness, 33.33% (6/18) with rhabdomyolysis, and 31.25% (5/16) in those with idiopathic hyperCKemia. Conclusions: This study shows that NGS can be a useful tool in the molecular workup of patients seen in a neuromuscular clinic. Evaluating the utility of large panels of a muscle disease-specific NGS panel to investigate the genetic susceptibilities of rhabdomyolysis and/or idiopathic hyperCKemia is a relatively new field. Twenty-eight of the pathogenic and likely pathogenic variants reported here are novel and have not previously been associated with disease.