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Research paper
Relative preservation of triceps over biceps strength in upper limb-onset ALS: the ‘split elbow’
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  • Published on:
    Split weakness signs in ALS
    • Michael Swash, Neurologist/Professor of Neurology Royal London Hospital and Institute of Neuroscience, University of Lisbon,Portugall
     I note the clinical analysis of differential weakness in ALS in elbow flexion (biceps brachii) compared to elbow extension (triceps) reported by Khalaf et al.1 This is described as analogous to similar 'split' muscle weakness around the ankle joint and, particularly, as that found in flexor digitorum indicis (FDI) compared to abductor digit minim (ADM) in the hand in the disease. It should be remembered that, although characteristic of ALS, this differential pattern of weakness has repeatedly been found not to be unique to ALS, even from the first descriptions.2,3 As the authors, and Vucic in his editorial remark,1,4 the cause of this interesting pattern of weakness in ALS remains uncertain. The finding of an association between the pattern of weakness and increased excitability in the upper motor neuron system in ALS does not necessarily provide primary support for an upper motor neuron (UMN) causation.  Nonetheless this pattern of weakness must be important in the disease. It is worth remembering that differential susceptibility to neurogenic lower motor neuron weakness is also a characteristic feature of some peripheral neuropathies, e.g., the Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndromes. Furthermore, differential muscle weakness and atrophy is a characteristic finding that is important in clinical diagnosis in the myriad different genetically determined muscular dystrophies.5 Although the causation of this differential susceptibility of certain muscles in this la...
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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.