Malignant Hyperthermia

MH at RMHDr Michael Denborough                              MH Reporting Form  Download PDF

The Royal Melbourne Hospital could be considered the birthplace of knowledge about Malignant Hyperthermia – a potentially fatal disorder that can occur under certain types of anaesthetic.

It was at the RMH in 1960 that anaesthetist Dr Jim Villiers was presented with a patient who was understandably terrified as 10 members of his family had died during other minor procedures involving general anaesthesia. Dr Villiers devised a careful anaesthetic plan after extensive discussion with the patient and the surgical team. While his patient did develop signs of what we now refer to as Malignant Hyperthermia, Dr Villiers was able to save him from the fate of his other relatives with his skilled anaesthetic management.

Dr Michael Denborough (pictured right) and his colleague Dr Richard Lovell then went on to study this patients family in greater detail. They outlined the autosomal dominant inheritance of this severe reaction to anaesthetics and their letter was published in The Lancet. Dr Denborough went on to devote most of his career to research in the field of malignant hyperthermia.

Since 1972, The Royal Melbourne Hospital has been providing an advice, research and testing service for this rare but important disease, which has significant anaesthetic and surgical consequences. The anaesthetic department has been responsible for MH research and testing since 2001. Prior to this the service was expertly run by Dr Robert Moulds and his colleagues. 

The unit has tested more than 350 patients and there have been over 700 referrals. RMH is one of only three testing centres in Australia.

The only recognised test for Malignant Hyperthermia is a muscle biopsy, which is performed under a “non-triggering” anaesthetic. It involves a day’s stay in hospital and a few days off work while the 5cm scar on the thigh heals. While the test is accurate, it involves a certain degree of discomfort and cannot be performed on children as their muscle mass is not large enough.

Because of the limitations of the muscle biopsy, Malignant Hyperthermia testing centres throughout the world have been trying to devise another, less invasive test. Genetic testing is now available for some families and research continues into other methods of diagnosis.

For all referrals and enquiries, please contact:  

Dr Brad Hockey MB BS FANZCA (Muscle biopsy and IVCT)
Phone: +61 3 9342 7540 or through switchboard +61 3 9342 7000
Fax: +61 3 9342 8623


Dr Robyn Gillies MB BS FANZCA (genetic testing)
Phone: +61 3 9342 7540 or through switchboard +61 3 9342 7000
Fax: +61 3 9342 8623


forgotten your password?
Staff Members

Internal staff click here to register

Note - Your employee ID will be required to complete your staff registration.


Advanced Life Support (ALS) Course

Fibre Optic Airway Workshop



Annual Refresher Course

International Hokkaido Trauma Conference

The Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Management is an accredited site of training of
the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA).