Thinning of cervical nerve roots and peripheral nerves in ALS as measured by sonography

Clin Neurophysiol. 2014 Sep;125(9):1906-11. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2014.01.033. Epub 2014 Feb 24.


Objective: Progressive atrophy and loss of motor axons is a hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Limited sonographic data are available on potential detection of atrophy of peripheral nerves and nerve roots in ALS.

Methods: Patients with either definite or probable ALS and control subjects underwent sonographic evaluation of the cervical roots (C5, C6, and C7) and peripheral nerves (median and ulnar nerves) on the right. These diameters and cross-sectional areas (C6, median, and ulnar nerves) were compared.

Results: The diameters and cross-sectional areas were consistently smaller in ALS than in controls. No correlation was present between the sonographic parameters and the disease severity, disease duration, age, or gender. The overall sensitivity and specificity tended to be greater in the cervical nerve roots than in the peripheral nerves.

Conclusions: This study shows atrophy of cervical nerve roots and peripheral nerves in ALS detected by sonography. Cervical nerve roots might be more appropriate to detect motor axon loss than peripheral nerves.

Significance: Sonographic evaluation of nerve roots and peripheral nerves may be a useful disease marker in ALS to confirm the diagnosis and to potentially monitor the disease progression.

Keywords: ALS; Nerve root; Sonography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology
  • Atrophy
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / innervation
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / diagnostic imaging
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Peripheral Nerves / diagnostic imaging*
  • Peripheral Nerves / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / pathology
  • Ultrasonography