Peripheral neuropathy has been reported in association with chronic liver disease. However, the precise incidence, severity and characteristics of neuropathy, and the relationship of neuropathy to different etiologies of liver disease have not been defined. In this study, 58 patients with advanced liver disease were evaluated in detail for the presence of neuropathy. Peripheral (sensorimotor) neuropathy was found in 71% and autonomic neuropathy was found in 48% of the patients. Although the majority of patients were asymptomatic, neurological examination showed distal sensory loss to pain, or vibration or distal loss of reflexes in 17 patients (29%). Sensory neuropathy was seen more commonly than motor axonal polyneuropathy on nerve conduction studies. Quantitative sensory testing was frequently abnormal (62%) and cooling thresholds were more affected than vibration thresholds. Overall, the pattern of neuropathy in patients with liver disease conformed to the pattern expected in 'dying back' or length-dependent neuropathy. The neuropathy was most severe in patients with advanced hepatic decompensation. Comparison of causes of liver disease showed no significant differences in the severity of neuropathy among the different etiologies. In conclusion, axonal sensory-motor polyneuropathy and autonomic neuropathy are commonly seen in patients with end-stage liver disease of different causes.
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