Utility of phrenic nerve ultrasound in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Acta Neurol Belg. 2021 Feb;121(1):225-230. doi: 10.1007/s13760-020-01531-y. Epub 2020 Nov 2.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting the upper and lower motor neurons causing progressive weakness. It eventually involves the diaphragm which leads to respiratory paralysis and subsequently death. Phrenic nerve (PN) conduction studies and diaphragm ultrasound has been studied and correlated with pulmonary function tests in ALS patients. However, PN ultrasonography has not been employed in ALS. This study aims to sonographically evaluate the morphologic appearance of the PN of ALS patients. Thirty-eight ALS patients and 28 normal controls referred to the neurophysiology laboratory of two institutions were retrospectively included in the study. Baseline demographic and clinical variables such as disease duration, ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised score, and ALS region of onset were collected. Ultrasound was used to evaluate the PN cross-sectional area (CSA) of ALS and control subjects. The mean PN CSA of ALS patients were 1.08 ± 0.39 mm on the right and 1.02 ± 0.34 mm on the left. The PN CSA of ALS patients were significantly decreased compared to controls (p value < 0.00001). The PN CSA of ALS patients was not correlated to any of the demographic and clinical parameters tested. This study demonstrates that ALS patients have a smaller PN size compared to controls using ultrasonography.

Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Peripheral nerve size; Peripheral nerve ultrasound; Phrenic nerve.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Conduction / physiology*
  • Phrenic Nerve / diagnostic imaging*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / methods*
  • Young Adult