Corneal confocal microscopy : a novel noninvasive test to diagnose and stratify the severity of human diabetic neuropathy

Tavakoli, Mitra, Quattrini, Christian, Abbott, Caroline, Kallinikos, Panagiotis A., Marshall, Andrew G., Finnigan, Joanne, Morgan, Philip B., Efron, Nathan, Boulton, Andrew J., & Malik, Rayaz A. (2010) Corneal confocal microscopy : a novel noninvasive test to diagnose and stratify the severity of human diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes Care, 33(8), pp. 1792-1797.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The accurate quantification of human diabetic neuropathy is important to define at-risk patients, anticipate deterioration, and assess new therapies. ----------

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: A total of 101 diabetic patients and 17 age-matched control subjects underwent neurological evaluation, neurophysiology tests, quantitative sensory testing, and evaluation of corneal sensation and corneal nerve morphology using corneal confocal microscopy (CCM). ----------

RESULTS: Corneal sensation decreased significantly (P = 0.0001) with increasing neuropathic severity and correlated with the neuropathy disability score (NDS) (r = 0.441, P < 0.0001). Corneal nerve fiber density (NFD) (P < 0.0001), nerve fiber length (NFL), (P < 0.0001), and nerve branch density (NBD) (P < 0.0001) decreased significantly with increasing neuropathic severity and correlated with NDS (NFD r = −0.475, P < 0.0001; NBD r = −0.511, P < 0.0001; and NFL r = −0.581, P < 0.0001). NBD and NFL demonstrated a significant and progressive reduction with worsening heat pain thresholds (P = 0.01). Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis for the diagnosis of neuropathy (NDS >3) defined an NFD of <27.8/mm2 with a sensitivity of 0.82 (95% CI 0.68–0.92) and specificity of 0.52 (0.40–0.64) and for detecting patients at risk of foot ulceration (NDS >6) defined a NFD cutoff of <20.8/mm2 with a sensitivity of 0.71 (0.42–0.92) and specificity of 0.64 (0.54–0.74). ----------

CONCLUSIONS: CCM is a noninvasive clinical technique that may be used to detect early nerve damage and stratify diabetic patients with increasing neuropathic severity.

Established diabetic neuropathy leads to pain and foot ulceration. Detecting neuropathy early may allow intervention with treatments to slow or reverse this condition (1). Recent studies suggested that small unmyelinated C-fibers are damaged early in diabetic neuropathy (2–4) but can only be detected using invasive procedures such as sural nerve biopsy (4,5) or skin-punch biopsy (6–8). Our studies have shown that corneal confocal microscopy (CCM) can identify early small nerve fiber damage and accurately quantify the severity of diabetic neuropathy (9–11). We have also shown that CCM relates to intraepidermal nerve fiber loss (12) and a reduction in corneal sensitivity (13) and detects early nerve fiber regeneration after pancreas transplantation (14). Recently we have also shown that CCM detects nerve fiber damage in patients with Fabry disease (15) and idiopathic small fiber neuropathy (16) when results of electrophysiology tests and quantitative sensory testing (QST) are normal.

In this study we assessed corneal sensitivity and corneal nerve morphology using CCM in diabetic patients stratified for the severity of diabetic neuropathy using neurological evaluation, electrophysiology tests, and QST. This enabled us to compare CCM and corneal esthesiometry with established tests of diabetic neuropathy and define their sensitivity and specificity to detect diabetic patients with early neuropathy and those at risk of foot ulceration.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 39465
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: Articles free to read on journal website after 6 months
Keywords: Corneal sensation, neuropathic severity, neuropathy disability score
DOI: 10.2337/dc10-0253
ISSN: 0149-5992
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > OPTOMETRY AND OPHTHALMOLOGY (111300)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Optometry & Vision Science
Deposited On: 10 Jan 2011 01:59
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2015 05:17

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