Sympathetic skin response following thermal, electrical, acoustic, and inspiratory gasp stimulation in familial dysautonomia patients and healthy persons

Clin Auton Res. 1999 Aug;9(4):165-77. doi: 10.1007/BF02330480.


To determine whether sympathetic skin response (SSR) testing evaluates afferent small or efferent sympathetic nerve fiber dysfunction, we studied SSR in patients with familial dysautonomia (FD) in whom both afferent small and efferent sympathetic fibers are largely reduced. We analyzed whether the response pattern to a combination of stimuli specific for large or small fiber activation allows differentiation between afferent and efferent small fiber dysfunction. In 52 volunteers and 13 FD patients, SSR was studied at palms and soles after warm, cold and heat as well as electrical, acoustic, and inspiratory gasp stimulation. In addition, thermal thresholds were assessed at four body sites using a Thermotest device (Somedic; Stockholm, Sweden). In volunteers, any stimulus induced reproducible SSRs. Only cold failed to evoke SSR in two volunteers. In all FD patients, electrical SSR was present, but amplitudes were reduced. Five patients had no acoustic SSR, four had no inspiratory SSR. Thermal SSR was absent in 10 patients with abnormal thermal perception and present in one patient with preserved thermal sensation. In two patients, thermal SSR was present only when skin areas with preserved temperature perception were stimulated. In patients with FD, preserved electrical SSR demonstrated the overall integrity of the SSR reflex but amplitude reduction suggested impaired sudomotor activation. SSR responses were dependent on the perception of the stimulus. In the presence of preserved electrical SSR, absent thermal SSR reflects afferent small fiber dysfunction. A combination of SSR stimulus types allows differentiation between afferent small or efferent sympathetic nerve fiber dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dysautonomia, Familial / physiopathology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers / drug effects
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds / drug effects
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Skin / physiopathology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*