Cardiac autonomic involvement and peripheral nerve function in patients with diabetic neuropathy.Funct Neurol. 1997 May-Aug; 12(3-4):115-22.FN
The aim of our study was to investigate the relationship between cardiac autonomic neuropathy and dysfunction of myelinated and unmyelinated nerve fibres in the peripheral nerve. We measured nerve conduction velocities, warmth/cold perception thresholds at the foot dorsum, sympathetic skin response (SSR), and performed the quantitative sudomotor axon reflex test (QSART). Forty-three diabetic patients with distal-symmetric polyneuropathy were included. According to the results of heart rate variation, 20 patients had cardiac autonomic neuropathy (CAN+). Apart from motor nerve conduction velocities, all tests were more often abnormal in CAN+ patients. Warmth thresholds (afferent C-fibres) and reduced compound muscle action potentials (CMAPs) of the tibial and peroneal nerve, indicating axonal damage, were more often abnormal in CAN+. Cold threshold and sural nerve conduction velocity were indicators of involvement of myelinated small and large nerve fibres, but not of the cardiac autonomic system. Ninety-four percent (94%) of patients with absent SSR and 78% of patients with abnormal QSART had CAN+. SSR and QSART may be useful for assessment of autonomic neuropathy in diabetic patients with cardiac arrhythmia where direct measurement of heart rate variability is not possible. In the majority of our patients with CAN+, the vagal-cardiac and the sudomotor-sympathetic systems were involved simultaneously, although two entirely different systems were tested. This may reflect a C-fibre directed selectivity of the pathological process in autonomic diabetic neuropathy. In conclusion our results show that diabetics with and without cardiac autonomic neuropathy have a different profile of involvement of peripheral nerve fibres.