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Neurophysiological testing correlates with clinical examination according to fibre type involvement and severity in sensory neuropathy

Abstract

Objective: To investigate a comprehensive battery of neurophysiological tests for objective evaluation of sensory neuropathies including fibre type involvement and severity, and to determine the relation between neurophysiological data and clinical examination.

Methods: 45 patients referred for sensory neuropathy were studied using a standardised clinical evaluation of large and small fibre symptoms and an original neurophysiological battery. Clinical evaluation included: assessment of tactile, vibratory, and pin sensation; tendon reflexes; toe position sense; ataxia score; pain level; and presence of trophic, vasomotor, or sudomotor abnormalities. The neurophysiological battery included: recording of large fibre and small fibre components of the sural sensory nerve action potential; somatosensory evoked cortical potentials and soleus H reflex following tibial nerve electrical stimulation; laser evoked potentials following Nd:YAG laser stimulation of the foot; and plantar sympathetic skin response to median nerve stimulation. Neuropathy was classified according to the predominantly affected fibre type, and a severity score was established based on clinical and neurophysiological abnormalities.

Results: On clinical examination there were 22 patients with large fibre sensory neuropathy (LFSN), 18 with mixed sensory neuropathy (MSN), and five with small fibre sensory neuropathy (SFSN). Neurophysiological classification identified 25 patients with LFSN, 13 with MSN, and seven with SFSN. Clinical and neurophysiological classifications and severity scores were correlated, whatever the type of neuropathy.

Conclusions: The correlation between clinical examination and the results of an original neurophysiological test battery offers a comprehensive clinical and neurophysiological approach to the objective assessment of peripheral neuropathies according to fibre type involvement and overall severity.

  • clinical neurophysiology
  • clinical score
  • sensory neuropathy
  • small fibre neuropathy
  • LEP, laser evoked potential
  • LFSN, large fibre sensory neuropathy
  • MSN, mixed (large and small) sensory neuropathy
  • SEP, somatosensory evoked potential
  • SFSN, small fibre sensory neuropathy
  • smFC, small fibre component
  • SNAP, sensory nerve action potential
  • SSR, sympathetic skin response
  • VAS, visual analogue scale

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