Neuromuscular disorders affect the nerves that control voluntary muscles, like the ones in your arms and legs. When these nerve cells become unhealthy or die, communication between the nervous system and muscles breaks down.
Valley’s neurophysiology team is highly trained in diagnosing and treating all types of neuromuscular disorders, including:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Guillain-Barre syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Myasthenia gravis
- Polyneuropathy with variants
- Spinal muscular atrophy
Neurologists use a range of diagnostic tools to diagnose neuromuscular disorders. In addition to a clinical evaluation and a family history, testing may include:
EMG is a diagnostic procedure to assess the health of muscles and the nerve cells that control them. These nerve cells transmit electrical signals that cause muscles to contract. During a needle EMG, a needle electrode inserted directly into a muscle records the electrical activity in that muscle. EMG results can reveal nerve disorders, muscle dysfunction or problems with nerve-to-muscle signal transmission.
Evoked Potential Testing
An evoked potential test measures the time it takes for nerves to respond to stimulation as well as the size of the response. Depending on a patient’s symptoms and areas of complaint, nerves from different areas of the body may be tested.
Evoked potential tests are non-invasive and painless, using sensory stimuli like strobe lights, auditory tones or electrical pulses to determine nerve function. Types of evoked potential tests may include:
- Visual evoked response or potential (VER or VEP), when the eyes are stimulated by looking at a test pattern (most commonly used to diagnose multiple sclerosis)
- Auditory brain stem evoked response or potential, when hearing is stimulated by listening to a test tone
- Somatosensory evoked response or potential (SSER or SSEP), when the nerves of the arms and legs are stimulated by an electrical pulse
Serum Enzyme Tests
Serum enzyme tests can measure key enzyme levels associated with various neuromuscular diseases as well as increased muscle protein levels that build up as muscles are destroyed, making them an important aid in the diagnosis of neuromuscular diseases.
For some neuromuscular diseases, a final diagnosis depends on the analysis of a muscle biopsy. By removing a small amount of muscle tissue, the physician can test it for cellular protein abnormalities or characteristic changes in muscle composition. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure, done under local anesthesia.
The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms, increase mobility and lengthen life. Depending on the specific diagnosis, various treatment options are available to target the underlying pathology, reverse symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life.