Comparison of electrochemical skin conductance and vibration perception threshold measurement in the detection of early diabetic neuropathy

PLoS One. 2017 Sep 7;12(9):e0183973. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0183973. eCollection 2017.


The early diagnosis of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is challenging. Sudomotor dysfunction is one of the earliest detectable abnormalities in DPN. The present study aimed to determine the diagnostic performance of the electrochemical skin conductance (ESC) test in detecting early DPN, compared with the vibration perception threshold (VPT) test and diabetic neuropathy symptom (DNS) score, using the modified neuropathy disability score (NDS) as the reference standard. Five hundred and twenty-three patients with type 2 diabetes underwent an NDS-based clinical assessment for neuropathy. Participants were classified into the DPN and non-DPN groups based on the NDS (≥ 6). Both groups were evaluated further using the DNS, and VPT and ESC testing. A receiver-operator characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was performed to compare the efficacy of ESC measurements with those of DNS and VPT testing in detecting DPN. The DPN group (n = 110, 21%) had significantly higher HbA1c levels and longer diabetes durations compared with the non-DPN group (n = 413). The sensitivity of feet ESC < 60 μS, VPT testing, and DNS in detecting DPN were 85%, 72%, and 52%, respectively. The specificity of feet ESC, VPT, and DNS in detecting DPN were 85%, 90% and 60% respectively. The areas under the curves of the ROC plots for feet ESC, VPT testing, and DNS were 0.88, 0.84, and 0.6, respectively. A significant inverse linear relationship was noted between VPT and feet ESC (r = -0.45, p = <0.0001). The odds ratios for having DPN, based on the mean feet ESC testing < 60 μS, VPT testing > 15 V, and DNS ≥ 1, were 16.4, 10.9 and 1.8, respectively. ESC measurement is an objective and sensitive technique for the early detection of DPN. Feet ESC measurement was superior to VPT testing for identifying patients with early DPN.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Confidence Intervals
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / diagnosis*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Perception*
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensory Thresholds*
  • Vibration*

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.