Motor unit number estimate of distal and proximal muscles in Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease

Richard A. Lewis, Jun Li, Darren R. Fuerst, Michael E. Shy, Karen Krajewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


In order to determine the utility of motor unit number estimation (MUNE) in assessing axonal loss in chronic inherited neuropathies, we determined MUNEs in 54 patients with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease (29 patients with CMT-1A, 13 with CMT-X, and 12 with CMT-2) by using spike-triggered averaging (STA) of the ulnar-innervated abductor digiti minimi/hypothenar muscles (ADM) and the musculo-cutaneous innervated biceps/brachialis (BB) muscles. MUNEs were analyzed in relationship to the corresponding compound muscle action potential (CMAP) amplitudes as well as to clinical strength. Proximal muscles, which appeared strong clinically, had evidence of chronic denervation/reinnervation, although to a lesser extent than weak distal hand muscles, supporting the concept that axonal loss in CMT occurs in a length-dependent fashion. The reduction in ADM-MUNE strongly correlated with clinical weakness in the hand. Both the ADM-MUNE and BB-MUNE were abnormal more often than CMAP amplitude, probably reflecting extensive motor unit reconfiguration and enlargement that maintains CMAP amplitude despite severe motor unit loss. This study suggests that MUNE can assess motor unit loss in CMT and may better reflect axonal loss than CMAP amplitude. The STA technique of MUNE may be useful in longitudinal studies of proximal and distal motor unit changes in CMT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-167
Number of pages7
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Denervation
  • Motor unit number estimation
  • Spike-triggered averaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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