Symptomatic polyneuropathy in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection was studied in ten men with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and in ten men without the immune deficiency. In both groups of patients electrophysiological signs of polyneuropathy of the axonal type were present in the sural, median and peroneal nerves. The AIDS patients had a greater reduction of the mean (SD) sural nerve action potential, 3.1 (2.7) microV, than in patients without AIDS, 10.2 (6.1) microV (p less than 0.01) and greater slowing of peroneal nerve conduction velocity, 42.6 (1.4) m/s in AIDS patients versus 52.6 (3.3) m/s in patients without AIDS (p less than 0.0001). These findings indicate that in most HIV infected patients the severity but not the type of neuropathy depends on whether an immune deficient state has developed. Seven patients with symptomatic polyneuropathy were treated with azidothymidine (AZT) for an average of 10 months and compared with a group of five untreated patients with similar symptoms. No effect of AZT treatment on sural or median nerve amplitude or conduction velocity or on the vibratory or temperature thresholds was observed.
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