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Ann Neurol. 1994 May;35(5):559-69.

Nerve biopsy findings in different patterns of proximal diabetic neuropathy.

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Service de Neurologie, Hôpital de Bicêtre, Université Paris, France.


Besides distal symmetrical sensory polyneuropathy (DSSP), middle-aged diabetic patients may present with focal or multifocal neuropathies, including proximal neuropathy of the lower limbs, the pathophysiological features of which are uncertain. We studied 10 non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients, 45 to 72 years of age, who developed a painful proximal neuropathy of the lower limbs for which other causes of neuropathy were carefully excluded. The proximal neuropathy was asymmetrical in all patients, sensory in 4, motor and sensory in the others. Signs of DSSP were present in all. A sample of the intermediate cutaneous nerve of the thigh, a sensory branch of the femoral nerve, was taken by biopsy and examined by light and electron microscopy. Examination of the nerve specimens revealed ischemic nerve lesions in 3 patients. Nerve ischemia was associated with vasculitis and inflammatory infiltration in 2 of them. In the other patients the lesions of the cutaneous nerve of the thigh included a varying incidence of axonal and demyelinative lesions similar to those observed in DSSP, with mild inflammatory infiltration in 4 of them. The density of myelinated and of unmyelinated was variably decreased. This study shows that axonal and demyelinative lesions similar to those found in diabetic DSSP are present in proximal nerves in mild forms of proximal diabetic neuropathy; while nerve ischemia, inflammatory infiltration, and vasculitis are encountered in the most severe forms of proximal diabetic neuropathy.

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