A comparison of nerve conduction velocities and current perception thresholds as correlates of clinical severity of diabetic sensory neuropathy

M. S. Rendell, J. J. Katims, R. Richter, F. Rowland

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Nerve conduction velocities (NCVs) are the standard measurements used to confirm the presence or absence of diabetic neuropathy. NCVs were contrasted with the newer technique of measurement of alternating current perception thresholds (CPTs) in assessing the quantitative level of correlation with severity of diabetic sensory neuropathy. A very detailed, scored neurological history (symptoms) and physical examination, emphasising sensory assessment, was conducted on 71 individuals with diabetic neuropathy of varying degrees of severity. Sensory and motor NCVs and CPTs at 5,250, and 2000 Hz of the upper and lower extremities were determined for these individuals. In addition, vibration thresholds (VTs) were measured as a third modality. Twenty eight individuals underwent repeated evaluations at 2, 6, 10 and 12 months after the initial procedures. Using the results of 169 complete evaluations, correlations were determined between physical scores (PS) and symptom scores (SS) and NCVs. NCV correlations with the SS were weaker than with the PS. The strongest of the correlations were found between the PS and motor NCVs of the median nerve (rho = 0.29) and the tibial nerve (rho = 0.38). Normal NCVs were present in the face of very significant historical and physical abnormality. Correlations of the SS and PS with both VTs and CPTs were higher than with the NCVs. CPTs proved the more effective as predictors of both symptomatic and physical impairment. NCVs appear to lack the resolving power necessary to evaluate subtle differences in clinical state of diabetic sensory neuropathy. The supplementary use of current perception testing may improve the quantitative assessment of this condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-511
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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