Publications & Posters

Sural Nerve Biopsy: Current Role And Comparison With Serum Neurofilament Light Chain Levels


Mariotto S, Carta S, Bozzetti S, Zivelonghi C, Alberti D, Zanzoni S, Filosto M, Fusina S, Monaco S, Castellani F, Mantovani A, Cavallaro T, Briani C and Ferrari S.

 J Neurol (2020).



The diagnosis of peripheral neuropathies can be challenging with consequent difficulties in patients’ management. The aim of this study was to explore the current diagnostic role of sural nerve biopsy and to compare pathological findings with serum neurofilament light chain levels (NfL) as biomarkers of axonal damage. We collected demographic, clinical, and paraclinical data of patients referred over 1 year to the Neurology Unit, University of Verona, Italy, to perform nerve biopsy for diagnostic purposes, and we analyzed NfL levels in available paired sera using a high sensitive technique (Quanterix, Simoa). Eighty-two patients were identified (37.8% females, median age 65.5 years). Neuropathy onset was frequently insidious (68.3%) with a slowly progressive course (76.8%). Lower limbs were usually involved (81.7%), with a predominance of sensory over motor symptoms (74.4% vs 42.7%). The most common neuropathological findings were a demyelinating pattern (76.8%), clusters of regenerations (58.5%), and unmyelinated fibers involvement on ultrastructural evaluation (52.4%). A definite pathological diagnosis was achieved in 29 cases, and in 20.7% of patients, the referral clinical diagnosis was modified. Coexistent hematological conditions and hepatitis were diagnostic confounding factors (p = 0.012 and 0.034, respectively). In the analyzed paired sera (n = 37), an inverse despite not significant relationship between NfL values and fiber density was observed (Spearman’s rho − 0.312, p = 0.056). In addition, we noted increased serum NfL values of patients with active axonal degeneration. Nerve biopsy remains a useful diagnostic investigation to achieve a correct diagnosis and guide patients’ management in selected cases of peripheral neuropathy. Serum NfL is an accessible and potential valuable marker of axonal damage in these conditions.