Aims: Randomized clinical trials have frequently shown improvement in diabetic sensorimotor polyneuropathy in placebo-treated participants, counter to the prevailing concept that it deteriorates with time. We aimed to determine the variables associated with this paradoxical nerve function improvement.
Methods: Participants with diabetic sensorimotor polyneuropathy randomized to placebo in a multi-centre, double-blind study were evaluated for the primary outcome of 1-year change in the summed sensory nerve conduction velocity of the bilateral sural and non-dominant median nerves. Association with clinical and biochemical variables measured at 13 time points were examined.
Results: The 134 participants had mild to moderate diabetic sensorimotor polyneuropathy of 4.6 years' duration and mean 1-year improvement of 2.0 ± 8.0 m/s. Primary outcome measures were available for 122 participants (91%). In multivariate analyses, the change in HbA(1c) and serum triglycerides from baseline to 2 months demonstrated the strongest association, even independent of baseline and end-of-study levels. According to quintiles of change, we determined thresholds: participants with salutary improvement in HbA(1c) (exceeding a drop of -0.8%) or whose triglycerides did not increase (by 0.32 mmol/l or more) experienced significant improvement (2.9 m/s), while those with salutary levels of both these variables had an exaggerated improvement (5.1 m/s). In comparison, those with non-salutary changes in both variables experienced a loss of -4.9 m/s (ANOVA P=0.0014).
Conclusions: In mild to moderate diabetic sensorimotor polyneuropathy, short-term improvements in glycaemic control and serum triglyceride levels have an independent, additive and durable effect on restoration of nerve function.
© 2010 The Authors. Diabetic Medicine © 2010 Diabetes UK.