Introduction: Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) is an acquired neuropathy characterized by demyelination of the peripheral nerves and roots. The course of the illness is progressively chronic or of relapses and remissions. Biopsy of the sural nerve is not essential for diagnosis. It is therefore not necessary to carry it out on all occasions, but probably permits a more rational approach to treatment.
Objective: To show whether biopsy of the sural nerve is useful for orientation of the treatment required in cases of CIDP.
Patients and methods: We studied a total of 16 patients admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of CIDP. They had neurophysiological studies, sural nerve biopsy and other studies to rule out other diagnoses. The patients were assigned to the therapeutic protocols recommended. During 8 years of follow up we compared the response to treatment with intacglobin/plamapheresis, steroids and cytostatic drugs.
Results: It was highly significant (p< 0.001) that the patients with axon lesions on sural nerve biopsy did not respond to treatment with intac globin/plasmapheresis or steroids but did respond to cyclophosphamide, without any serious adverse effects being seen.
Conclusions: Axonal histopathological lesions of CIDP at the onset of the disease may require cytostatic treatment since they do not usually improve on standard treatment. Sural biopsy is usually invaluable in such cases.