Motor neuron disease with predominantly upper extremity involvement: a clinicopathological study

Acta Neuropathol. 1999 Dec;98(6):645-50. doi: 10.1007/s004010051131.


We report two autopsy cases of motor neuron disease (MND) patients with an unusual type of muscular atrophy predominantly affecting the shoulder girdle and the upper extremities with proximal dominance. Both patients are considered to be clinically categorized into the El Escorial suspected form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). At autopsy, they showed marked loss of spinal anterior horn cells accompanied by astrogliosis positively immunostained with anti-glial fibrillary acidic protein antibody at the cervical level. At the lumbosacral level, anterior horn neurons were relatively well preserved and Bunina bodies, ubiquitin-positive skein-like inclusions and Lewy body-like inclusions were observed in the remaining neurons. In one patient, brain stem motor neurons (nerves V, VII, XII) and motor cortex, including Betz cells, were also affected and the corticospinal tracts were degenerated at the level of the thoracic and lumbar spinal cord. Pathological findings of this patient are consistent with those of ALS. In the other patient, the motor cortex, brain stem motor nuclei and the corticospinal tracts were well preserved, which is pathologically compatible with progressive spinal muscular atrophy. These patients with such a peculiar pattern of progressive muscular atrophy should be placed in a subgroup of ALS.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Arm / pathology
  • Central Nervous System / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology