Plexus MRI helps distinguish the immune-mediated neuropathies MADSAM and MMN

Grayson Beecher, Benjamin M. Howe, Shahar Shelly, P. Nathan, Michelle L. Mauermann, Bruce V. Taylor, Robert J. Spinner, Jennifer A. Tracy, P. James B. Dyck, Christopher J. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Among immune-mediated neuropathies, clinical-electrophysiological overlap exists between multifocal acquired demyelinating sensory and motor neuropathy (MADSAM) and multifocal motor neuropathy (MMN). Divergent immune pathogenesis, immunotherapy response, and prognosis exist between these two disorders. MRI reports have not shown distinction of these disorders, but biopsy confirmation is lacking in earlier reports. MADSAM nerves are hypertrophic with onion bulbs, inflammation, and edema, whereas MMN findings are limited to multifocal axonal atrophy. Objectives: To understand if plexus MRI can distinguish MADSAM from MMN among pathologically (nerve biopsy) confirmed cases. Methods: Retrospective chart review and blinded plexus MRI review of biopsy-confirmed MADSAM and MMN cases at Mayo Clinic. Results: Nine brachial plexuses (MADSAM-5, MMN-4) and 6 lumbosacral plexuses (MADSAM-4, MMN-2) had fascicular biopsies of varied nerves. Median follow-up in MADSAM was 93 months (range: 7–180) and 27 (range: 12–109) in MMN (p = 0.34). MRI hypertrophy occurred solely in MADSAM (89%, 8/9) with T2-hyperintensity in both. There was no correlation between time to imaging for hypertrophy, symptom onset age, or motor neuropathy impairments (mNIS). At last follow-up, on diverse immunotherapies mNIS improved in MADSAM (median − 4, range: −22 to 0), whereas MMN worsened (median 3, range: 0 to 6, p = 0.03) on largely IVIG. Conclusion: Nerve hypertrophy on plexus MRI helps distinguish MMN from MADSAM, where better immunotherapy treatment outcomes were observed. These findings are consistent with the immune pathogenesis seen on biopsies. Radiologic distinction is possible independent of time to imaging and extent of motor deficits, suggesting MRI is helpful in patients with uncertain clinical-electrophysiologic diagnosis, especially motor-onset MADSAM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number577953
JournalJournal of neuroimmunology
StatePublished - Oct 15 2022


  • Brachial plexus
  • Lumbosacral plexus
  • MMN
  • MRI
  • Nerve biopsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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