Clinician-rated measures for distal symmetrical axonal polyneuropathy: ACTTION systematic review

Neurology. 2019 Aug 20;93(8):346-360. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007974. Epub 2019 Jul 18.


Distal symmetrical axonal polyneuropathy (DSP) is due to injury to peripheral sensory, motor, and autonomic nerve fibers, resulting in distal predominant sensory loss, pain, and gait instability. DSP occurs as a complication of multiple medical conditions including diabetes or HIV, or following exposure to various toxins such as chemotherapy. It affects at least 10% of the United States population. Few treatments for DSP are approved by regulatory agencies. Reliable and responsive outcome measures are integral to developing new DSP treatments. Multiple clinician-rated measures that incorporate neuropathy signs exist, however, it is not clear which of these measures performs best for various DSP phenotypes. This systematic review summarizes the content of 18 published measures of DSP identified using PubMed and from personal archives of the authors. The relative percentage of scoring dedicated to motor, reflex, large and small fiber sensory, and autonomic domains varied considerably among measures. The most common neurologic examination items included in the scales were (1) vibration perception (n = 18, 100%), (2) reflexes (n = 16, 89%), (3) pinprick perception (n = 14, 78%), (4) muscle strength (n = 11, 61%), (5) touch-pressure perception (n = 9, 50%), and (6) joint position perception (n = 8, 44%). This review can be used to inform decisions regarding which of the available clinician-rated sign outcome measures would be most appropriate for use in a particular DSP population, based on the domains most affected by that neuropathy or on the domains most likely to be affected by a particular experimental therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / standards
  • Drug Development / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neurologic Examination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / standards*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Polyneuropathies / diagnosis*