The sensitivity and specificity of the neurological examination in polyneuropathy patients with clinical and electrophysiological correlations

Alon Abraham, Majed Alabdali, Abdulla Alsulaiman, Hana Albulaihe, Ari Breiner, Hans D. Katzberg, Danah Aljaafari, Leif E. Lovblom, Vera Bril

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Polyneuropathy is one of the most prevalent neurologic disorders. Although several studies explored the role of the neurological examination in polyneuropathy, they were mostly restricted to specific subgroups of patients and have not correlated examination findings with symptoms and electrophysiological results. Objectives: To explore the sensitivity and specificity of different neurological examination components in patients with diverse etiologies for polyneuropathy, find the most sensitive combination of examination components for polyneuropathy detection, and correlate examination findings with symptoms and electrophysiological results. Methods: Patients with polyneuropathy attending the neuromuscular clinic from 01/2013 to 09/2015 were evaluated. Inclusion criteria included symptomatic polyneuropathy, which was confirmed by electrophysiological studies. 47 subjects with no symptoms or electrophysiological findings suggestive for polyneuropathy, served as controls. Results: The total cohort included 312 polyneuropathy patients, with a mean age of 60±14 years. Abnormal examination was found in 95%, most commonly sensory findings (86%). The most common abnormal examination components were impaired ankle reflexes (74%), vibration (73%), and pinprick (72%) sensation. Combining ankle reflex examination with vibration or pinprick perception had the highest sensitivity, of 88%. The specificities of individual examination component were generally high, excluding ankle reflexes (62%), and vibration perception (77%). Abnormal examination findings were correlated with symptomatic weakness and worse electrophysiological parameters. Conclusion: The neurological examination is a valid, sensitive and specific tool for diagnosing polyneuropathy, and findings correlate with polyneuropathy severity. Ankle reflex examination combined with either vibration or pinprick sensory testing is the most sensitive combination for diagnosing polyneuropathy, and should be considered minimal essential components of the physical examination in patients with suspected polyneuropathy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0171597
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

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