Like nearly all biologic structures, the peripheral nervous system is remarkably temperature sensitive. Clinical neurophysiologists are most aware of the untoward effects of cooling on nerve conduction studies, including reduced conduction velocity, prolonged distal latency, and increased response amplitude and duration. However, familiarity with the effects of temperature variation on the peripheral nervous system can also provide a deeper understanding of the physiological mechanisms underlying the function of nerve, muscle, and neuromuscular junction in health and disease. Intentional temperature alteration can also improve the diagnostic accuracy of certain electrophysiologic tests, such as the use of heat when performing repetitive nerve stimulation in myasthenia gravis or the use of cold during needle electromyography in some of the myotonic disorders. Finally, extremes of temperature have long been known to produce permanent neuronal dysfunction; recent investigations are beginning to elucidate the mechanisms of such injury.
Copyright 2001 American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine