Objective The aim of this study was to evaluate changes in sensory axonal excitability in the distal nerve in patients with cervical radiculopathy.
Methods The patients were classified by the findings of cervical MRI into two subgroups: 22 patients with C6/7 root compression and 25 patients with cervical cord and root compression above/at C6/7. Patients were investigated using conventional nerve conduction studies (NCS) and nerve excitability testing. Sensory nerve excitability testing was undertaken with stimulation at the wrist and recording from digit II (dermatome C6/7). The results were compared with healthy controls. Both preoperative and postoperative tests were performed if the patient underwent surgery.
Results Sensory axonal excitability was significantly different in both cohorts compared with healthy controls, including prolonged strength-duration time constant, reduced S2 accommodation, increased threshold electrotonus hyperpolarisation (TEh (90–100 ms)), and increased superexcitability. The changes in these excitability indices are compatible with axonal membrane hyperpolarisation. In five patients who underwent surgery, the postoperative sensory excitability was tested after 1 week, and showed significant changes in TE (TEh (90–100 ms) and TEh slope, p<0.05) between presurgery and postsurgery.
Conclusions The present study demonstrated distal nerve axonal hyperpolarisation in patients with cervical radiculopathy. These findings suggest that the hyperpolarised pattern might be due to Na+-K+ ATPase overactivation induced by proximal ischaemia, or could reflect the remyelinating process. Distal sensory axons were hyperpolarised even though there were no changes in NCS, suggesting that nerve excitability testing may be more sensitive to clinical symptoms than NCS in patients with cervical radiculopathy.
- Electrical Stimulation