Human dorsal root ganglion in vivo morphometry and perfusion in Fabry painful neuropathy

Neurology. 2017 Sep 19;89(12):1274-1282. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004396. Epub 2017 Aug 23.


Objective: To evaluate functional and morphometric magnetic resonance neurography of the dorsal root ganglion and peripheral nerve segments in patients with Fabry painful neuropathy.

Methods: In this prospective study, the lumbosacral dorsal root ganglia and proximal peripheral nerve segments of the lower extremity were examined in 11 male patients with Fabry disease by a standardized 3T magnetic resonance neurography protocol. Volumes of L3 to S2 dorsal root ganglia, perfusion parameters of L5-S1 dorsal root ganglia and the spinal nerve L5, and the cross-sectional area of the proximal sciatic nerve were compared to healthy controls.

Results: Dorsal root ganglia of patients with Fabry disease were symmetrically enlarged by 78% (L3), 94% (L4), 122% (L5), 115% (S1), and 119% (S2) (p < 0.001). In addition, permeability of the blood-tissue interface was decreased by 53% (p < 0.001). This finding was most pronounced in the peripheral zone of the dorsal root ganglion containing the cell bodies of the primary sensory neurons (p < 0.001). Spinal nerve permeability showed no difference between patients with Fabry disease and controls (p = 0.7). The sciatic nerve of patients with Fabry disease at the thigh level showed an increase in cross-sectional area by 48% (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Patients with Fabry disease have severely enlarged dorsal root ganglia with dysfunctional perfusion. This may be due to glycolipid accumulation in the dorsal root ganglia mediating direct neurotoxic effects and decreased neuronal blood supply. These alterations were less pronounced in peripheral nerve segments. Thus, the dorsal root ganglion might play a key pathophysiologic role in the development of neuropathy and pain in Fabry disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Fabry Disease / complications*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / diagnostic imaging
  • Ganglia, Spinal / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / innervation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / diagnostic imaging
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain / pathology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sacrum / innervation
  • Sciatic Nerve / diagnostic imaging
  • Sciatic Nerve / pathology*
  • Young Adult

Supplementary concepts

  • Neuropathy, Painful