Fiber loss is primary and multifocal in sural nerves in diabetic polyneuropathy

Ann Neurol. 1986 May;19(5):425-39. doi: 10.1002/ana.410190503.


Pathological, morphometric, and teased fiber studies of sural nerve from 36 diabetic patients with (n = 32) and without (n = 4) neuropathy and from 47 healthy subjects provide evidence that in diabetic polyneuropathy: (1) fiber loss is primary; (2) demyelination and remyelination with or without onion bulb formation are secondary; (3) remaining fibers, on average, have the same ratio of small to large fibers as in healthy individuals, but with a greatly increased variability; and (4) the spatial distribution of fiber loss is both diffuse and multifocal. Criteria developed during the study of experimental models of ischemic neuropathy were employed to assess whether ischemic nerve damage had occurred in diabetic polyneuropathy. We conclude that there is increasing evidence that microvascular pathological abnormality and ischemia may be involved in the pathogenesis of human diabetic polyneuropathy. Cases with selective loss of small or large afferent fibers are probably extremes of a normal distribution and not different disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Axons / pathology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / etiology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microcirculation / pathology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelin Sheath / pathology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology
  • Peripheral Nerves / pathology*
  • Schwann Cells / pathology
  • Vasa Nervorum / pathology