Using surface electrodes, sensory nerve action potentials (SAP) have been recorded in the proximal segment (mid-calf to lateral malleolus) and the distal segment (lateral malleolus to toe 5) of the sural nerve and in the median nerve in 79 control subjects. The values obtained for the distal segment of the sural nerve varied widely and in seven apparently normal subjects no SAP could be distinguished. In the proximal segment conduction velocities were over 40 m/s and there was no significant change with age, unlike the median nerve in which a highly significant slowing occurred with age. Comparison of the results of sural and median sensory conduction studies in 300 consecutive patients screened for sensory polyneuropathy confirms the value of sural nerve sensory studies as a routine screening test, and confirms the belief that the changes in polyneuropathy are usually more prominent in lower limb nerves. It is therefore suggested that studies of sural sensory conduction form the single most useful test in the diagnosis of sensory polyneuropathy.
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