Contribution of skin biopsy in peripheral neuropathies

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In the last three decades the study of cutaneous innervation through 3 mm‐punch‐biopsy has provided an important contribution to the knowledge of small fiber somatic and autonomic neuropathies but also of large fiber neuropathies. Skin biopsy is a minimally invasive technique with the advantage, compared to sural nerve biopsy, of being suitable to be applied to any site in our body, of being repeatable over time, of allowing the identification of each population of nerve fiber through its target. In patients with symptoms and signs of small fiber neuropathy the assessment of IntraEpidermal Nerve Fiber density is the gold standard to confirm the diagnosis while the quantification of sudomotor, pilomotor, and vasomotor nerve fibers allows to evaluate and characterize the autonomic involvement. All these parameters can be re‐evaluated over time to monitor the disease process and to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatments. Myelinated fibers and their receptors can also be evaluated to detect a “dying back” neuropathy early when nerve conduction study is still normal. Furthermore, the morphometry of dermal myelinated fibers has provided new insight into pathophysiological mechanisms of different types of inherited and acquired large fibers neuropathies. In genetic neuropathies skin biopsy has become a surrogate for sural nerve biopsy, no longer necessary in the diagnostic process, to study genotype–phenotype correlations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number989
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Autonomic neuropathy
  • Large fiber neuropathy
  • Skin biopsy
  • Small fiber neuropathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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