Sensory exam with a quantitative tuning fork: Rapid, sensitive and predictive of SNAP amplitude

Alan Pestronk, J. Florence, T. Levine, M. T. Al-Lozi, G. Lopate, T. Miller, I. Ramneantu, W. Waheed, M. Stambuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Background: In the standard neurologic examination, outcome measures of sensation testing are typically qualitative and subjective. The authors compared the outcome of vibratory sense evaluation using a quantitative Rydel-Seiffer 64 Hz tuning fork with qualitative vibration testing, and two other features of the neurologic evaluation, deep tendon reflexes and sensory nerve conduction studies. Methods: The authors studied 184 subjects, including 126 with Waldenström's macroglobulinemia and 58 controls, over the course of a weekend. Standard neurologic examinations and quantitative vibratory testing were performed. Sensory nerve action potentials (SNAP) were tested as a measure of sensory nerve function. Tests were carried out by different examiners who were blinded to the results of other testing and to clinical information other than the diagnosis of Waldenström's macroglobulinemia. Results: Quantitative vibration measurements in all body regions correlated with sural SNAP amplitudes. Quantitative vibration outcomes were more strongly related to sural SNAP results than qualitative evaluations of vibration. Quantitative vibration testing also detected a loss of sensation with increased age in all body regions tested. Conclusions: Quantitative vibratory evaluation with Rydel-Seiffer tuning fork is rapid, has high inter- and intrarater reliability, and provides measures for evaluating changes in sensory function over time. Examinations with the quantitative tuning fork are also more sensitive and specific than qualitative vibration testing for detecting changes in sensory nerve function. Use of the quantitative tuning fork takes no more time, provides more objective information, and should replace the qualitative vibratory testing method that is now commonly used in the standard neurologic examination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-464
Number of pages4
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 10 2004


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