The pathophysiological role of the thymus in myasthenia gravis, and the mechanism of therapeutic effect of thymectomy, are incompletely understood. Nevertheless, thymectomy is a valuable treatment modality in selected patients with generalised myasthenia gravis. There are several types of thymectomy operation, but no one operative approach is clearly superior to the others. Total removal of the thymus gland is essential. Additional excision of associated mediastinal and cervical tissue, that may harbor ectopic thymic rests, is a controversial surgical issue. Surgeons that advocate thymectomy through small, cosmetically favourable, incisions usually believe that simple removal of the thymus gland is an adequate operation. Surgeons that emphasise the importance of removing extrathymic tissue, in addition to the thymus gland, usually favour greater operative exposure through a median sternotomy. To minimise operative morbidity, surgery for myasthenia gravis requires a multidisciplinary (neurology, surgery, anaesthesia) approach to peri-operative care.
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