The pattern and diagnostic criteria of sensory neuronopathy: a case-control study

Brain. 2009 Jul;132(Pt 7):1723-33. doi: 10.1093/brain/awp136. Epub 2009 Jun 8.


Acquired sensory neuronopathies encompass a group of paraneoplastic, dysimmune, toxic or idiopathic disorders characterized by degeneration of peripheral sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia. As dorsal root ganglia cannot easily be explored, the clinical diagnosis of these disorders may be difficult. The question as to whether there exists a common clinical pattern of sensory neuronopathies, allowing the establishment of validated and easy-to-use diagnostic criteria, has not yet been addressed. In this study, logistic regression was used to construct diagnostic criteria on a retrospective study population of 78 patients with sensory neuronopathies and 56 with other sensory neuropathies. For this, sensory neuronopathy was provisionally considered as unambiguous in 44 patients with paraneoplastic disorder or cisplatin treatment and likely in 34 with a dysimmune or idiopathic setting who may theoretically have another form of neuropathy. To test the homogeneity of the sensory neuronopathy population, likely candidates were compared with unambiguous cases and then the whole population was compared with the other sensory neuropathies population. Criteria accuracy was checked on 37 prospective patients referred for diagnosis of sensory neuropathy. In the study population, sensory neuronopathy showed a common clinical and electrophysiological pattern that was independent of the underlying cause, including unusual forms with only patchy sensory loss, mild electrical motor nerve abnormalities and predominant small fibre or isolated lower limb involvement. Logistic regression allowed the construction of a set of criteria that gave fair results with the following combination: ataxia in the lower or upper limbs + asymmetrical distribution + sensory loss not restricted to the lower limbs + at least one sensory action potential absent or three sensory action potentials <30% of the lower limit of normal in the upper limbs + less than two nerves with abnormal motor nerve conduction study in the lower limbs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cisplatin / adverse effects
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Conduction
  • Paraneoplastic Polyneuropathy / diagnosis
  • Paraneoplastic Polyneuropathy / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cisplatin