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April 1974

The Vagus and Sympathetic Nerves in Alcoholic Polyneuropathy

Author Affiliations

From the departments of pathology (Division of Neuropathology) (Dr. Novak) and medicine (Division of Neurology) (Dr. Victor), Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, and Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, Cleveland.

Arch Neurol. 1974;30(4):273-284. doi:10.1001/archneur.1974.00490340001001

Four patients with alcoholic neuropathy had hoarseness and weakness of the voice and dysphagia as prominent clinical manifestations. These symptoms were due to varying degrees of degeneration of the vagus nerves—changes that were similar, both in nature and severity, to those in the peripheral nerves. In one of the cases, which was characterized clinically by hypothermia and persistent hypotension, there was also degeneration of the nerves of the sympathetic trunks. Vocal cord palsy, on the basis of vagal neuropathy, is a relatively rare but well-documented feature of neuritic beriberi. The occurrence of a similar disorder in alcoholic neuropathy, which, to our knowledge, has not been clearly described heretofore, provides further support for the idea that the two disorders are identical.

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