Morphometric analysis of the peripheral neuropathy of aids

Walter G. Bradley, Paul Shapshak, Silvia Delgado, Isao Nagano, Renee Stewart, Beatriz Rocha

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45 Scopus citations


A morphometric study of the peripheral nervous system at autopsy was undertaken in 11 AIDS patients and 10 controls. The left L4, L5, and S1 dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and samples of the sciatic nerve at the buttock, tibial nerve at the knee, and sural nerve at the ankle were collected. Indices of neuronal/axonal degeneration and of segmental demyelination/remyelination were measured at each level. The small number of cases and evidence of neuropathy in a number of the control cases resulted in statistical significance for only a limited number of comparisons. Nodules of Nageotte in the DRG were increased fivefold in AIDS cases compared with controls, and axonal degeneration in single-teased nerve fibers was increased 9-fold in the sciatic nerve, 28-fold in the tibial nerve, and 12-fold in the sural nerve. The ratios of AIDS to controls for the density of remaining DRG neurons and large myelinated axons were reduced to 0.71 in the DRG, 0.84 in the sciatic nerve, 0.84 in the tibial nerve, and 0.66 in the sural nerve. Axonal regeneration in single-teased nerve fibers was increased threefold at the sciatic nerve level in AIDS, but was markedly reduced at distal levels. Acute segmental demyelination in single-teased nerve fibers was present to a greater extent than in controls at all levels of the peripheral nerves in the AIDS cases. Remyelinating fibers were increased compared with controls only in the proximal sciatic nerve. No case showed the changes of cytomegalovirus infection. In a parallel immunohistochemical study of these AIDS peripheral nerves, T-cell and macrophage infiltration, with cytokine expression, was demonstrated. The pathological process in the neuropathy of terminal AIDS appears to be a multifocal immunologically mediated inflammatory disease, with increased density of macrophages and T cells at all levels of the peripheral nervous system, producing segmental demyelination and axonal degeneration. Reparative processes (axonal regeneration and remyelination) occurred only at the most proximal levels of the nerves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1188-1195
Number of pages8
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1998


  • AIDS
  • Axonal degeneration
  • HIV1
  • Pathophysiology
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Segmental demyelination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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