Plexus MRI helps distinguish the immune-mediated neuropathies MADSAM and MMN

J Neuroimmunol. 2022 Oct 15;371:577953. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2022.577953. Epub 2022 Aug 18.


Background: Among immune-mediated neuropathies, clinical-electrophysiological overlap exists between multifocal acquired demyelinating sensory and motor neuropathy (MADSAM) and multifocal motor neuropathy (MMN). Divergent immune pathogenesis, immunotherapy response, and prognosis exist between these two disorders. MRI reports have not shown distinction of these disorders, but biopsy confirmation is lacking in earlier reports. MADSAM nerves are hypertrophic with onion bulbs, inflammation, and edema, whereas MMN findings are limited to multifocal axonal atrophy.

Objectives: To understand if plexus MRI can distinguish MADSAM from MMN among pathologically (nerve biopsy) confirmed cases.

Methods: Retrospective chart review and blinded plexus MRI review of biopsy-confirmed MADSAM and MMN cases at Mayo Clinic.

Results: Nine brachial plexuses (MADSAM-5, MMN-4) and 6 lumbosacral plexuses (MADSAM-4, MMN-2) had fascicular biopsies of varied nerves. Median follow-up in MADSAM was 93 months (range: 7-180) and 27 (range: 12-109) in MMN (p = 0.34). MRI hypertrophy occurred solely in MADSAM (89%, 8/9) with T2-hyperintensity in both. There was no correlation between time to imaging for hypertrophy, symptom onset age, or motor neuropathy impairments (mNIS). At last follow-up, on diverse immunotherapies mNIS improved in MADSAM (median - 4, range: -22 to 0), whereas MMN worsened (median 3, range: 0 to 6, p = 0.03) on largely IVIG.

Conclusion: Nerve hypertrophy on plexus MRI helps distinguish MMN from MADSAM, where better immunotherapy treatment outcomes were observed. These findings are consistent with the immune pathogenesis seen on biopsies. Radiologic distinction is possible independent of time to imaging and extent of motor deficits, suggesting MRI is helpful in patients with uncertain clinical-electrophysiologic diagnosis, especially motor-onset MADSAM.

Keywords: Brachial plexus; Lumbosacral plexus; MADSAM; MMN; MRI; Nerve biopsy.

MeSH terms

  • Brachial Plexus*
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Polyneuropathies*
  • Polyradiculoneuropathy, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating*
  • Retrospective Studies