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Background Pure autonomic failure (PAF) and multiple system atrophy (MSA) are both characterised by chronic dysautonomia although presenting different disability and prognosis. Skin autonomic function evaluation by indirect tests has revealed conflicting results in these disorders. Here, the authors report the first direct analysis of skin sympathetic fibres including structure and function in PAF and MSA to ascertain different underlying autonomic lesion sites which may help differentiate between the two conditions. Methods The authors studied eight patients with probable MSA (mean age 60+/-5 years) and nine patients fulfilling diagnostic criteria for PAF (64+/-8 years). They underwent head-up tilt test (HUTT), extensive microneurographic search for muscle and skin sympathetic nerve activities from peroneal nerve and punch skin biopsies from finger, thigh and leg to evaluate cholinergic and adrenergic autonomic dermal annexes innervation graded by a semiquantitative score presenting a high level of reliability. Results MSA and PAF patients presented a comparable neurogenic orthostatic hypotension during HUTT and high failure rate of microneurographic trials to record sympathetic nerve activity, suggesting a similar extent of chronic dysautonomia. In contrast, they presented different skin autonomic innervation in the immunofluorescence analysis. MSA patients showed a generally preserved skin autonomic innervation with a significantly higher score than PAF patients showing a marked postganglionic sympathetic denervation. In MSA patients with a long disease duration, morphological abnormalities and/or a slightly decreased autonomic score could be found in the leg reflecting a mild postganglionic involvement. Conclusion Autonomic innervation study of skin annexes is a reliable method which may help differentiate MSA from PAF.
Department of Neurological Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry
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A degenerative disease of the AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM that is characterized by idiopathic ORTHOSTATIC HYPOTENSION and a greatly reduced level of CATECHOLAMINES. No other neurological deficits are present.
The enteric, parasympathetic, and sympathetic nervous systems taken together. Generally speaking, the autonomic nervous system regulates the internal environment during both peaceful activity and physical or emotional stress. Autonomic activity is controlled and integrated by the central nervous system, especially the hypothalamus and the solitary nucleus, which receive information relayed from VISCERAL AFFERENTS; these and related central and sensory structures are sometimes (but not here) considered to be part of the autonomic nervous system itself.
Nerves and plexuses of the autonomic nervous system. The central nervous system structures which regulate the autonomic nervous system are not included.
A syndrome complex composed of three conditions which represent clinical variants of the same disease process: STRIATONIGRAL DEGENERATION; SHY-DRAGER SYNDROME; and the sporadic form of OLIVOPONTOCEREBELLAR ATROPHIES. Clinical features include autonomic, cerebellar, and basal ganglia dysfunction. Pathologic examination reveals atrophy of the basal ganglia, cerebellum, pons, and medulla, with prominent loss of autonomic neurons in the brain stem and spinal cord. (From Adams et al., Principles of Neurology, 6th ed, p1076; Baillieres Clin Neurol 1997 Apr;6(1):187-204; Med Clin North Am 1999 Mar;83(2):381-92)
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