Malignant hyperthermia is an inherited condition that leads to a chain reaction of symptoms. This is triggered by commonly used anaesthetic gases that keep you asleep during an operation.

To relax breathing muscles, suxamethonium is often used with a general anaesthetic. Both can trigger a malignant hyperthermia reaction, leading to increased concentrations of calcium in the muscle cells.

In an emergency, both anaesthetic gases and suxamethonium are commonly used so it is important to be aware if malignant hyperthermia is in the family.

Malignant hyperthermia in Aotearoa New Zealand

The first evidence of malignant hyperthermia in Aotearoa New Zealand was in 1968 when a 20-year-old male died during an operation on his jaw in Palmerston North Hospital.

It was subsequently found that he was a member of a very large susceptible family based in the Manawatū-Horowhenua region.

Malignant hyperthermia research

A collaborative research project began in 1994 between:

  • Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Palmerston North Hospital
  • Institute of Molecular BioSciences, Massey University, Palmerston North.

The ultimate aim of this project is to develop DNA-based tests that will identify susceptibility to malignant hyperthermia.

This page is under review

Our information about malignant hyperthermia and associated research is being reviewed.

Contact the Palmerston North Hospital anaesthetic department for more information.

Phone: 06 350 8565