To study the frequency and severity of peripheral neuropathy in multiple system atrophy (MSA), we performed nerve conduction studies in 42 MSA patients suffering from either cerebellar MSA (MSA-C) or parkinsonian MSA (MSA-P). Abnormal nerve conduction was present in 24% of the patients. Abnormalities were significantly more frequent in MSA-P (43%) compared to MSA-C (14%). Motor nerve conduction velocities were reduced in 4% of the MSA-C and in 7% of the MSA-P patients. Abnormal compound muscle action potentials were more frequent in MSA-P (29% versus 7% in MSA-C) pointing to a more pronounced loss of motor axons in this subgroup. Sensory nerve conduction velocities were abnormal in 4% of the MSA-C and 14% of the MSA-P patients, and mean sensory nerve action potentials were normal in all MSA-C and reduced in 7% of the MSA-P patients. The data provide evidence that the peripheral nervous system is differentially affected in MSA-C and MSA-P.

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