PURPOSE: Comprehensive evaluation of the upstream sensory processing in diabetic symmetrical polyneuropathy (DSPN) is sparse. The authors investigated the spinal nociceptive withdrawal reflex and the related elicited somatosensory evoked cortical potentials. They hypothesized that DSPN induces alterations in spinal and supraspinal sensory-motor processing compared with age- and gender-matched healthy controls.
METHODS: In this study, 48 patients with type 1 diabetes and DSPN were compared with 21 healthy controls. Perception and reflex thresholds were determined and subjects received electrical stimulations on the plantar site of the foot at three stimulation intensities to evoke a nociceptive withdrawal reflex. Electromyogram and EEG were recorded for analysis.
RESULTS: Patients with DSPN had higher perception (P < 0.001) and reflex (P = 0.012) thresholds. Fewer patients completed the recording session compared with healthy controls (34/48 vs. 21/21; P = 0.004). Diabetic symmetrical polyneuropathy reduced the odds ratio of a successful elicited nociceptive withdrawal reflex (odds ratio = 0.045; P = 0.014). Diabetic symmetrical polyneuropathy changed the evoked potentials (F = 2.86; P = 0.025), and post hoc test revealed reduction of amplitude (-3.72 mV; P = 0.021) and prolonged latencies (15.1 ms; P = 0.013) of the N1 peak.
CONCLUSIONS: The study revealed that patients with type 1 diabetes and DSPN have significantly changed spinal and supraspinal processing of the somatosensory input. This implies that DSPN induces widespread differences in the central nervous system processing of afferent A-δ and A-β fiber input. These differences in processing may potentially lead to identification of subgroups with different stages of small fiber neuropathy and ultimately differentiated treatments.