A simple device is described, consisting of 12 weighted 23 gauge disposable needles (0.2 to 5.2 g), for testing sensation in busy diabetic clinics. The pinprick sensory threshold (PPT) is the lightest weighted needle which consistently elicits a sharp sensation. The subjects were 48 healthy controls (hospital staff), 44 diabetic patients without neuropathic symptoms, and 35 diabetic patients with chronic painful neuropathy. In the controls, the mean PPT from the right hand and foot obtained on two test occasions a week apart did not differ significantly. In diabetic patients without symptomatic neuropathy, the mean PPT in the right hand and right foot were significantly higher than in the controls. The diabetic patients with painful neuropathy had clearly increased mean PPT in the right hand and foot compared with controls. Marstock thermal limen in diabetic patients with painful neuropathy correlated significantly with PPT determinations. PPT and thermal thresholds probably give comparable information on small fibre dysfunction in diabetic patients with symptomatic neuropathy. Compared with thermal threshold determinations however, the weighted needle apparatus is inexpensive, simple, and rapid to use.
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