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Sural nerve biopsy in peripheral neuropathies: 30-year experience from a single center

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Nerve biopsy has been widely used to investigate patients with peripheral neuropathy, and in many centers, it is still a useful diagnostic tool in this setting. In this study, we reviewed the histopathological spectrum of the nerve biopsies performed in our center in a 30-year period and we analyzed their relevance in the clinical setting.

Materials and methods

Retrospective analysis of the retrieved data was done for cases of nerve biopsies performed in our institute between 1988 and 2018. Surgical technique and histopathological analysis were done accordingly to standard protocol.


Complete clinical and pathological data were available only for 717 cases. The procedure was generally safe, with only 0.3% superimposed infection. Main pathological results were “unspecific” axonal polyneuropathy (49.8%), vasculitis neuropathy (9.3%), acquired demyelinating neuropathy (8.9%), and Charcot-Marie-Tooth (8.2%). Considering clinical-neurophysiological suspicion of vasculitis, nerve biopsy confirmed the diagnosis in 60.9% of cases.


In conclusion, for inherited neuropathies, we do not recommend this invasive procedure, but we strongly suggest a genetic test. Conversely, in vasculitic neuropathies or in dysimmune neuropathies not clearly confirmed by neurophysiological examination, nerve biopsy continues to represent a useful and irreplaceable tool.

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We thank the patients for their participation in this study.

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Correspondence to Marco Luigetti.

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Luigetti, M., Di Paolantonio, A., Bisogni, G. et al. Sural nerve biopsy in peripheral neuropathies: 30-year experience from a single center. Neurol Sci 41, 341–346 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10072-019-04082-0

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  • Nerve biopsy
  • Neuropathy
  • Amyloid
  • Vasculitis
  • CIDP
  • CMT
  • IgM-related neuropathy