Chronic idiopathic axonal polyneuropathy (CIAP) is an insidiously progressive sensory or sensorimotor polyneuropathy that affects elderly people. Although severe disability or handicap does not occur, CIAP reduces quality of life. CIAP is diagnosed in 10% to 25% of people referred for evaluation of polyneuropathy. There is a need to gather and review emerging evidence on treatments, as the number of people affected is likely to increase in ageing populations. This is an update of a review first published in 2004 and previously updated in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2013.
To assess the effects of drug therapy for chronic idiopathic axonal polyneuropathy for reducing disability and ameliorating neurological symptoms and associated impairments, and to assess any adverse effects of treatment.
In July 2016, we searched Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, Embase, and the Web of Science. We searched two trials registries for ongoing trials. We also handsearched the reference lists of relevant articles, reviews and textbooks identified electronically, and we would have contacted authors and other experts in the field to identify additional studies if this seemed useful.
We sought all randomised or quasi-randomised (alternate or other systematic treatment allocation) trials that examined the effects of any drug therapy in people with CIAP at least one year after the onset of treatment. People with CIAP had to fulfil the following criteria: age 40 years or older, distal sensory or sensorimotor polyneuropathy, absence of systemic or other neurological disease, chronic clinical course not reaching a nadir in less than two months, exclusion of any recognised cause of the polyneuropathy by medical history taking, clinical or laboratory investigations, and electrophysiological studies in agreement with axonal polyneuropathy, without evidence of demyelinating features. The primary outcome was the proportion of participants with a significant improvement in disability. Secondary outcomes were change in the mean disability score, change in the proportion of participants who make use of walking aids, change in the mean Medical Research Council sum score, degree of pain relief and/or reduction of other positive sensory symptoms, change in the proportion of participants with pain or other positive sensory symptoms, and frequency of adverse effects.
Two review authors independently reviewed the results of the literature search and extracted details of trial methodology and outcome data of all potentially relevant trials.
We identified 39 studies and assessed them for possible inclusion in the review, but we excluded all of them because of insufficient quality or lack of relevance. We summarised evidence from non-randomised studies in the Discussion.
Even though CIAP has been clearly described and delineated, no adequate randomised or quasi-randomised controlled clinical treatment trials have been performed. In their absence there is no proven efficacious drug therapy.