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J Neurol. 2015;262(4):1014-8. doi: 10.1007/s00415-015-7672-0. Epub 2015 Feb 17.

Small-fibre neuropathy related to bulbar and spinal-onset in patients with ALS.

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Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, Sapienza University, Viale Università 30, 00185, Rome, Italy,


We aimed at seeking more precise diagnostic information on the sensory nervous system involvement described in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We investigated large myelinated nerve fibres with nerve conduction study and small-nerve fibres with Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST) (assessing thermal-pain perceptive thresholds) and skin biopsy (assessing intraepidermal nerve fibre density) in 24 consecutive patients with ALS, 11 with bulbar-onset and 13 with spinal-onset. In 23 of the 24 patients, regardless of ALS onset, nerve conduction study invariably showed large myelinated fibre sparing. In patients with bulbar-onset ALS, QST found normal thermal-pain perceptive thresholds and skin biopsy disclosed normal intraepidermal nerve fibre density. Conversely, in patients with spinal-onset, thermal-pain thresholds were abnormal and distal intraepidermal nerve fibre density was reduced. Sensory nervous system involvement in ALS differs according to disease onset. Patients with spinal-onset but not those with bulbar-onset ALS have concomitant distal small-fibre neuropathy. Neurologists should therefore seek this ALS-related non-motor feature to improve its diagnosis and treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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