Clinical and electrophysiological findings in critical illness polyneuropathy

J Neurol Sci. 1998 Aug 14;159(2):186-93. doi: 10.1016/s0022-510x(98)00164-6.


Sixty two patients with critical illness polyneuropathy (CIP) were studied prospectively to determine the clinical and electrophysiological profile, to assess the prognostic value of respiratory electrophysiology in determining the duration of ventilation and to analyze the role of neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBA) and steroids. Limb motor and sensory nerve conductions, bilateral phrenic nerve onset latencies, bilateral diaphragmatic compound muscle action potentials (CMAP), unilateral diaphragmatic needle electromyography (EMG), limb muscle EMG, time on the ventilator, time in the intensive care unit (ICU), dosage of NMBA and steroids were analyzed in 62 patients. The diagnosis of CIP was made by clinical criteria, electrophysiological criteria and exclusion of any other condition suspicious of an axonal neuropathy. The results of phrenic nerve conduction studies and diaphragmatic EMG were compared to normal mean values in 25 healthy subjects. The most common finding in our study were reduced CMAPs and abnormal spontaneous activity in muscle, occuring in 100%. Forty per cent had reduced CMAPs but normal sensory nerve action potentials (SNAP). These patients had normal CK-levels and normal findings, unspecific changes, type 2 fibre atrophy or denervation atrophy on muscle biopsy. Seventy seven per cent of patients had abnormal diaphragmatic CMAPs and spontaneous activity in the diaphragm indicating denervation of the diaphragm is common in CIP. There was no statistically significant relationship to the dosage of NMBA and steroids, and the respiratory electrophysiological studies, duration of ventilation and stay in the ICU.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Illness*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Conduction
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents / therapeutic use
  • Polyneuropathies / etiology
  • Polyneuropathies / physiopathology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration*
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / complications
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ventilator Weaning


  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents