Peripheral polyneuropathy in children and young adults with ataxia-telangiectasia

Eur J Neurol. 2023 Dec;30(12):3842-3853. doi: 10.1111/ene.16028. Epub 2023 Aug 16.


Background and purpose: Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) is a rare, autosomal recessive, multisystem disorder that leads to progressive neurodegeneration with cerebellar ataxia and peripheral polyneuropathy. Cerebellar neurodegeneration is well described in A-T. However, peripheral nervous system involvement is an underdiagnosed but important additional target for supportive and systemic therapies. The aim of this study was to conduct neurophysiological measurements to assess peripheral neurodegeneration and the development of age-dependent neuropathy in A-T.

Methods: In this prospective study, 42 classical A-T patients were assessed. The motor and sensory nerve conduction of the median and tibial nerves was evaluated. Data were compared to published standard values and a healthy age- and gender-matched control group of 23 participants. Ataxia scores (Klockgether, Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia) were also assessed.

Results: In A-T, neurophysiological assessment revealed neuropathic changes as early as the first year of life. Subjective symptomatology of neuropathy is rarely described. In the upper extremities, motor neuropathy was predominantly that of a demyelinating type and sensory neuropathy was predominantly that of a mixed type. In the lower extremities, motor and sensory neuropathy was predominantly that of a mixed type. We found significant correlations between age and the development of motor and sensory polyneuropathy in A-T compared with healthy controls (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: In A-T, polyneuropathy occurs mostly subclinically as early as the first year of life. The current study of a large national A-T cohort demonstrates that development of neuropathy in A-T differs in the upper and lower extremities.

Keywords: ataxia scores; ataxia-telangiectasia; disease progression; neurodegeneration; neurography; polyneuropathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ataxia
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia* / complications
  • Cerebellar Ataxia*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases*
  • Polyneuropathies* / complications
  • Polyneuropathies* / diagnosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult