Chronic immune sensory polyradiculopathy: a possibly treatable sensory ataxia

Neurology. 2004 Nov 9;63(9):1662-9. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000142507.12763.58.


Background: Chronic inflammatory neuropathies can present with a sensory ataxia due to involvement of dorsal root ganglia (DRG) or sensory nerves. Selective inflammatory involvement of sensory nerve roots proximal to the DRG has been postulated.

Methods: The authors identified 15 patients with a sensory syndrome and normal nerve conduction studies. Sensory nerve root involvement was suggested by either somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP) or imaging abnormalities. CNS disease was excluded.

Results: All patients had gait ataxia, large fiber sensory loss, and paresthesias, and nine had frequent falls. The disease course was chronic and progressive (median duration 5 years, range 3 months to 18 years). Sural sensory nerve action potential amplitudes were preserved and SSEP abnormalities were consistent with sensory nerve root involvement. Five patients had enlargement of lumbar nerve roots on MRI with enhancement in three. The CSF protein was elevated in 13 of 14 patients tested. Three patients had lumbar sensory rootlet biopsies that showed thickened rootlets, decreased density of large myelinated fibers, segmental demyelination, onion-bulb formation, and endoneurial inflammation. Six patients who required aids to walk were treated with immune modulating therapy and all had marked improvement with four returning to normal ambulation.

Conclusion: Based on the described clinical features, normal nerve conduction studies, characteristic somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP) abnormality, enlarged nerve roots, elevated CSF protein, and inflammatory hypertrophic changes of sensory nerve rootlet tissue, we suggest the term chronic immune sensory polyradiculopathy (CISP) for this syndrome. This condition preferentially affects large myelinated fibers of the posterior roots, may respond favorably to treatment, and may be a restricted form of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
  • Female
  • Gait Ataxia / diagnosis
  • Gait Ataxia / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Conduction
  • Polyradiculoneuropathy, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating / diagnosis*
  • Polyradiculoneuropathy, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating / drug therapy*
  • Polyradiculoneuropathy, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating / pathology
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / pathology
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / ultrastructure