Pseudocholinesterase Deficiency

What is Pseudocholinesterase Deficiency?

Pseudocholinesterase Deficiency is an uncommon hereditary issue where you are unable to tolerate some types of anesthetic drugs that contain choline. If you are affected, your body lacks an enzyme to break down the choline, which leads to muscle paralysis and respiratory failure.

About 1 in 1,500 to 2,500 have pseudocholinesterase deficiency. It is more common in men, especially those with Jewish ancestry. You may never know that you have the issue unless you undergo a surgical procedure that uses a choline-based anesthetic.

What are the Symptoms of Pseudocholinesterase Deficiency?

People with pseudocholinesterase deficiency may stop breathing on their own during surgery. Paralysis of the muscles that control breathing can lead to respiratory distress. Other muscles in the body may also be impacted, so you may be unable to move for longer than a patient who does not have the deficiency.

How is Pseudocholinesterase Deficiency Treated?

If you have a close relative who has pseudocholinesterase deficiency, you can be tested to see if you also have it. A blood test can reveal the lack of the necessary enzyme to break down choline.

A patient with a history of pseudocholinesterase deficiency or a positive test should avoid surgery unless it is absolutely necessary.

If you must undergo surgery, your medical professionals can use an anesthetic that does not contain choline or can put you on a respirator that can mechanically breathe for you during the operation.

Eventually, the paralysis will wear off and you shouldn’t experience any lasting issues.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
August 25, 2017
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