Correlation of epidermal nerve fiber density with pain-related evoked potentials in HIV neuropathy

Mark Obermann, Zaza Katsarava, Stefan Esser, Claudia Sommer, Lan He, Laura Selter, Min-Suk Yoon, Holger Kaube, Hans-Christoph Diener, Matthias Maschke
Pain 2008 August 15, 138 (1): 79-86
HIV associated sensory neuropathy is a common neurological disorder with reported prevalence of 53%. When only small fibers are involved, the diagnosis of neuropathy remains difficult since standard nerve conduction studies generally are unremarkable. We assessed a method to identify small-fiber neuropathy using electrically evoked pain-related potentials and correlated the electrophysiological results with intraepidermal nerve fiber density in patients with HIV associated sensory neuropathy. Nineteen HIV positive patients were investigated for clinically diagnosed peripheral neuropathy with Neuropathy Symptoms Score (NSS)3 and Neuropathy Disability Score (NDS)5. Nine healthy HIV negative control subjects were recruited. We performed standard nerve conduction testing, electrically evoked pain-related potentials and skin biopsy in all participants. Pain-related evoked potentials revealed abnormalities in all HIV positive neuropathy patients, while standard nerve conduction testing was abnormal in eight patients only. Pain-related evoked potential latencies and amplitudes strongly correlated with intraepidermal nerve fiber density. The method of pain-related evoked potential conduction appears to be a sensitive, fast, non-invasive technique for the detection of small-fiber neuropathy and may prove to become a valuable diagnostic asset.


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