Beriberi neuropathy. Morphometric study of sural nerve

J Neurol Sci. 1980 Mar;45(2-3):177-90. doi: 10.1016/0022-510x(80)90164-1.


Seven biopsied sural nerves from patients with beriberi were morphometrically evaluated. In teased fiber analysis the mean frequency of myelinated fibers showing axonal degeneration and segmental demyelination was 37.5 and 5.3%, respectively. In two cases with frequency of segmental demyelination higher than 5%, segmental demyelination was shown by statistical criteria to have occurred on certain fibers in a clustered fashion. Therefore, the segmental demyelination in beriberi may be secondary to axonal degeneration. Electromyographic findings and slow improvement of muscle weakness were compatible with axonal degeneration of motor fibers. Determinations of fiber densities revealed preferential decrease of the density of large myelinated fibers with the preservation of the density of small myelinated and unmyelinated fibers. The preferential nerve fiber involvement in beriberi was not associated with pain in the lower limbs and this fact is contrary to the expectation of the proponents of the gate control theory.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Beriberi / pathology*
  • Biopsy
  • Fibroblasts / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Degeneration*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / ultrastructure
  • Peripheral Nerves / pathology*
  • Schwann Cells / ultrastructure
  • Sural Nerve / pathology