Sensory neuropathic cough: a common and treatable cause of chronic cough

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2006 Jul;135(1):17-21. doi: 10.1016/j.otohns.2006.02.003.


Objective: To describe our experience with chronic sensory neuropathic cough and its response to amitriptyline in a first group of patients.

Study design and setting: A prospective cohort of patients is described in detail. Each was referred to an academic laryngological practice after extensive prior negative workup for cough and failure to respond to various treatments. Each of these patients was treated with amitriptyline and asked to report the effect on the cough at fixed intervals by means of telephone interviews.

Results: A first cohort of 12 consecutive patients with a chronic, nonproductive cough that lasted between 2 months and 20 years, with no (formerly) discernible cause is described. Purely clinical criteria of inclusion and exclusion are proposed. All patients had at least 40% reduction of self-reported symptoms, with most describing between 75% to 100% short-term relief.

Conclusion: Sensory neuropathic cough can be diagnosed clinically in patients with chronic idiopathic cough. A trial of amitriptyline 10 mg or of other anti-neuralgia type medications may be helpful. Longer term and controlled trials are warranted to validate this entity and prove efficacy of neurologic medication in chronic sensory neuropathic cough.

Ebm rating: C-4.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amitriptyline / therapeutic use
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / diagnosis
  • Cough / drug therapy
  • Cough / etiology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Prospective Studies


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Amitriptyline