Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 65  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 329-336

Role of skin punch biopsy in diagnosis of small fiber neuropathy-A review for the neuropathologist

1 Department of Pathology, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
2 Department of Neuropathology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Anita Mahadevan
Department of Neuropathology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru - 560 029, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijpm.ijpm_92_22

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Over the last three decades, skin punch biopsy has become the gold standard for diagnosis of small fiber neuropathies, including autonomic neuropathies commonly seen in diabetics, patients with HIV, and children with hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathies and toxin-induced neuropathy. Clinical, biochemical, electrophysiological tests are inconclusive, making it difficult to diagnose and initiate treatment. A skin punch biopsy is easy to perform in the outpatient clinic, is highly sensitive, and provides an objective diagnosis. Importantly, it helps avoid performing invasive nerve biopsy in patients with small fiber neuropathy, thereby preventing complications such as non-healing of the biopsy site, which is common in these patients. Secondly, the greatest advantage of skin punch biopsies is that they can be repeated any number of times, unlike a nerve biopsy, and are useful to evaluate disease progression and therapeutic response. More recently, its use has been expanded to the diagnosis of large fiber neuropathies, inherited demyelinating neuropathies, etc., obviating the need for a nerve biopsy. The European Federation of Neurological Societies has published guidelines for evaluation to ensure uniformity with regard to the site of biopsy, processing, and quantification. The evaluation of the skin biopsy involves morphometric assessment of the intraepidermal nerve fiber density using PGP 9.5 immunostained sections by bright-field microscopy. This review focuses on the practical aspects of skin punch biopsy and its utility for the practicing pathologist.

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