Diabetic Neuropathy

A cross-sectional study of the relationships among tests of neurophysiology

  1. Aristidis Veves, MD, DSC2
  1. 1Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts;
  2. 2Department of Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
  1. Corresponding author: Aristidis Veves, aveves{at}bidmc.harvard.edu.


OBJECTIVE To determine the relationships among large, small, and autonomic fiber neurophysiological measures in a cross-sectional study of patients with diabetes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS We assessed 130 individuals: 25 healthy subjects and 105 subjects with diabetes. Subjects were classified by the presence or absence of neuropathy by physical examination. All subjects underwent autonomic testing, nerve conduction studies, quantitative sensory testing, and nerve-axon reflex vasodilation in addition to quantifiable neurological examination and symptom scores. Correlation and cluster analysis were used to determine relationships between and among different neurophysiological testing parameters.

RESULTS Results of neurophysiological tests were abnormal in patients with clinical evidence of diabetic neuropathy compared with results in healthy control subjects and in those without neuropathy (P < 0.01, all tests). The correlations among individual tests varied widely, both within (r range <0.5–>0.9, NS to <0.001) and between test groups (r range <0.2–>0.5, NS to <0.01). A two-step hierarchical cluster analysis revealed that neurophysiological tests do not aggregate by typical “small,” “large,” or “autonomic” nerve fiber subtypes.

CONCLUSIONS The modest correlation coefficients seen between the different testing modalities suggest that these techniques measure different neurophysiological parameters and are therefore not interchangeable. However, the data suggest that only a small number of neurophysiological tests are actually required to clinically differentiate individuals with neuropathy from those without. The natural clustering of both patients and healthy control subjects suggests that variations in the population will need to be considered in future studies of diabetic neuropathy.


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  • Received April 22, 2010.
  • Accepted August 24, 2010.

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  1. Diabetes Care vol. 33 no. 12 2629-2634
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