Motor nerve biopsy studies in motor neuropathy and motor neuron disease

Muscle Nerve. 1997 Jan;20(1):15-21. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-4598(199701)20:1<15::aid-mus2>;2-k.


The clinical presentation of motor neuropathy often resembles that of motor neuron disease, sometimes leading to an erroneous diagnosis. Moreover, the underlying pathological process in motor neuropathy has been rarely investigated and there are no systematic studies of the affected motor nerves. We describe a new motor nerve biopsy procedure, performed in 15 patients: 6 with motor neuropathy and 9 with motor neuron disease. The motor branch from the anterior division of the obturator nerve to the gracilis muscle in the thigh was biopsied. In both groups of patients the motor nerves exhibited depletion of myelinated nerve fibers. In motor neuropathy there was a significantly higher density of regenerative clusters of small myelinated fibers in comparison to motor nerves from patients with motor neuron disease. In addition, in 3 patients with motor neuropathy there was evidence for demyelination with thinly myelinated axons and small onion bulb formations. These pathological studies of motor nerve biopsies can help to differentiate motor neuropathy from motor neuron disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neuron Disease / pathology*
  • Motor Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / ultrastructure*
  • Neurons, Afferent / ultrastructure*