Clinical assessment of the sensory ataxias; diagnostic algorithm with illustrative cases

Pract Neurol. 2014 Aug;14(4):242-51. doi: 10.1136/practneurol-2013-000764. Epub 2014 Feb 25.


Ataxia is a common neurological syndrome resulting from cerebellar, vestibular or sensory disorders. The recognition and characterisation of sensory ataxia remains a challenge. Cerebellar ataxia is the more common and easier to identify; sensory ataxia is often mistaken for cerebellar ataxia, leading to diagnostic errors and delays. A coherent aetiological work-up is only possible if clinicians initially recognise sensory ataxia. We discuss ways to separate sensory from cerebellar ataxia, the causes of sensory ataxia and the clinico-neurophysiological syndromes causing the sensory ataxia syndromes. We summarise a logical tiered approach as a diagnostic algorithm.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms*
  • Ataxia / diagnosis*
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology*
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology*
  • Spinocerebellar Degenerations / diagnosis*