Utility of somatosensory evoked potentials in chronic acquired demyelinating neuropathy

Muscle Nerve. 2008 Nov;38(5):1447-1454. doi: 10.1002/mus.21078.


Chronic acquired demyelinating polyneuropathy (CADP) is a heterogeneous syndrome that may be classified into a number of subtypes. Somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs) assess proximal segments of sensory nerves, inadequately assessed by routine nerve conduction studies (NCSs). The aim of the present study was to determine the utility of SSEPs in diagnosing and classifying different CADP subtypes. Forty-seven patients with CADP were studied and classified in five groups based on conventional NCSs and SSEPs. Some patients in Group 1 were initially misdiagnosed as having either motor neuron disease or multifocal motor neuropathy due to normal sensory NCSs, but they exhibited abnormal tibial and median nerve SSEPs, as evidenced by marked prolongation or absence of peripheral potentials (N9-median nerve, and N20-tibial nerve). These were reclassified as having chronic inflammatory demyelinating neuropathy (CIDP). In CIDP patients (Group 2), SSEPs were abnormal, thereby confirming the presence of demyelination in the proximal peripheral nerves. Patients with distal acquired demyelinating neuropathy (DADS) (Group 3), as defined by conventional NCS, exhibited abnormal SSEPs when anti-MAG antibodies were present. Anti-MAG-negative DADS patients (Group 3) had normal SSEPs. In the pure sensory ataxic group (Group 4), SSEP studies disclosed poorly formed and delayed cortical potentials with absent lumbar (N20) potentials, thereby suggesting the presence of proximal demyelination. SSEPs were normal in the pure motor CIDP and multifocal motor neuropathy patients (MMN) (Group 5), thereby differentiating asymmetric forms of CIDP from MMN. These findings suggest that SSEPs may be an important complementary investigation to conventional NCSs in the diagnosis of CADP.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Median Nerve / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Conduction / physiology*
  • Polyradiculoneuropathy, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating / classification
  • Polyradiculoneuropathy, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating / diagnosis*
  • Polyradiculoneuropathy, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating / physiopathology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reaction Time / radiation effects
  • Sural Nerve / physiopathology