Plasma-cell dyscrasia with polyneuropathy. The spectrum of POEMS syndrome

N Engl J Med. 1992 Dec 31;327(27):1919-23. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199212313272705.


Background: The POEMS (polyneuropathy, organomegaly, endocrinopathy, monoclonal gammopathy, and skin changes) syndrome and osteosclerotic myeloma (polyneuropathy and sclerotic bone lesions) may both be manifestations of plasma-cell dyscrasia, but the interrelation of these diseases is not clear. We therefore set out to define the clinical spectrum of disease in patients with plasma-cell dyscrasia and polyneuropathy who have the complete or incomplete form of the POEMS syndrome or osteosclerotic myeloma.

Methods: Among 2714 patients with plasma-cell dyscrasia who were identified between 1973 and 1989, we reviewed the cases of those with polyneuropathy and plasma-cell dyscrasia who fulfilled the criteria for the POEMS syndrome or osteosclerotic myeloma.

Results: Thirty-eight patients (1.4 percent) with a median age of 51 years were identified, 22 of whom were male. By definition, all had polyneuropathy (37 combined sensorimotor, and 1 primarily motor). Other findings included osteosclerotic bone lesions (82 percent), skin abnormalities (58 percent), lymphadenopathy (42 percent), papilledema (37 percent), peripheral edema (29 percent), hepatomegaly (24 percent), splenomegaly (21 percent), and ascites (11 percent). Thirty-three patients (87 percent) had an abnormal M protein in serum or urine (17 had IgA lambda, and 12 IgG lambda). Five patients fulfilled all the criteria for the POEMS syndrome. The estimated five-year survival in the 38 patients was 60 percent, which was significantly better than the 20 percent survival in 869 patients with multiple myeloma (P < 0.05). The clinical course was similar among the patients with the complete form of the POEMS syndrome and those with the incomplete form.

Conclusions: Plasma-cell dyscrasia with polyneuropathy is a rare multisystem disease that often presents with osteosclerotic bone lesions. The differentiation of the POEMS syndrome from so-called osteosclerotic myeloma with peripheral neuropathy appears to have no clinical value.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteosclerosis / complications
  • POEMS Syndrome / classification*
  • POEMS Syndrome / diagnosis
  • POEMS Syndrome / mortality
  • Paraproteinemias / classification*
  • Paraproteinemias / complications
  • Paraproteinemias / diagnosis
  • Paraproteinemias / mortality
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / classification*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate