Unraveling the role of ectopic thymic tissue in patients undergoing thymectomy for myasthenia gravis
Extended thymectomy has been considered the goal of surgery for myasthenia gravis (MG) mainly due to the existence of ectopic thymic tissue. Recently, ectopic thymic tissue has attracted increasing attention in patients with MG following thymectomy. However, the specific role of ectopic thymic tissue in patients with MG is still under debate. A systematic search of the literature was performed on PubMed and Medline according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISM) statement. Studies evaluating the rate of ectopic thymic tissue in patients with MG with or without thymoma were included. Extraction was performed for all eligible studies and the rate of ectopic thymic tissue at common locations was calculated. Eighteen out of fifty-nine studies were eligible for inclusion, of which ten studies reported the common locations of ectopic thymic tissue in mediastinal fat. Of these ten studies, the presence of ectopic thymic tissue was investigated in different anatomical locations in 882 patients, of whom, 509 patients (58%) have at least one positive location with the most common ones being anterior mediastinal fat, pericardiophrenic angles, aortopulmonary window, cervical region (pretracheal fat) and lateral to phrenic nerves. On the other hand, nine studies analyzed the influence of the presence of ectopic thymic tissue on the clinical outcomes of MG patients. Of these, six found that the presence of ectopic thymic tissue in MG patients is a significant predictor of poor outcome after thymectomy, however, the other three did not find a significance. Altogether, ectopic thymic tissue is likely to present in more than a half of patients undergoing thymectomy for MG. Besides, MG patients who have ectopic thymic tissue after thymectomy do not seem to have as good outcome as those who have not.