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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Neurol. | doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.01050

The Veterans Affairs Neuropathy Scale: A Reliable, Remote Polyneuropathy Exam

 Andrew M. Wilson1, 2*, Michael Ong1, 3, Debra Saliba1, 4 and Nasheed I. Jamal1, 2
  • 1VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, United States
  • 2Department of Neurology, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, United States
  • 3UCLA Department of Medicine, United States
  • 4UCLA Borun Center for Gerontological Research, United States

Polyneuropathy (PN) complaints are common, prompting many referrals for neurologic evaluation. To improve access of PN care in distant community clinics, we developed a telemedicine service (patient-clinician interactions using real-time videoconference technology) for PN. The primary goal of this study was to construct a remote exam for PN that is feasible, reliable, and concordant with in-person assessments for use in our tele-PN clinics.

To construct the VA Neuropathy Scale (VANS), we searched the literature for existing, validated PN assessments. From these assessments, we selected a parsimonious set of exam elements based on literature-reported sensitivity and specificity of PN detection, with modifications as necessary for our teleneurology setting (i.e., a technician examination under the direction of a neurologist).

We recruited 28 participants with varying degrees of PN to undergo VANS testing under 5 scenarios. The 5 scenarios differed by mode of VANS grading (in-person vs. telemedicine) and by the in-person examiner type (neurologist vs. technician) in telemedicine scenarios. We analyzed concordance between the VANS and a person’s medical chart-derived PN status by modeling the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. We analyzed reliability of the VANS by mixed effects regression and computing the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) of scores across the 5 scenarios.

The VA Neuropathy Scale (VANS) tests balance, gait, reflexes, foot inspection, vibration, and pinprick. Possible scores range from 0 to 50 (worst). From the ROC curve, a cutoff of >2 points on the VANS sets the sensitivity and specificity of detecting PN at 98% and 91%, respectively. There is a small (1.3 points) but statistically significant difference in VANS scoring between in-person and telemedicine grading scenarios. For telemedicine grading scenarios, there is no difference in VANS scores between neurologist and technician examinations. The ICC is 0.89 across all scenarios.

The VANS, informed by existing PN instruments, is a promising clinical assessment tool for diagnosing and monitoring the severity of PN in telemedicine settings. This pilot study indicates acceptable concordance and reliability of the VANS with in-person examinations.

Keywords: Neuropathy, Telemedicine, Reliability, Neuromuscular, Examination

Received: 15 Apr 2019; Accepted: 16 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Wilson, Ong, Saliba and Jamal. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Andrew M. Wilson, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, United States,