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Familial risks for nerve, nerve root and plexus disorders in siblings based on hospitalisations in Sweden
  1. Kari Hemminki1,
  2. Xinjun Li2,
  3. Kristina Sundquist2
  1. 1Division of Molecular Genetic Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany; Center for Family Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Huddinge, Sweden
  2. 2Center for Family Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Huddinge, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor K Hemminki
 Division of Molecular Genetic Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center, Im Neuenheimer Feld 580, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany; k.hemminki{at}


Background: Nerve, nerve root and plexus disorders are common diseases, but little is known about familial clustering in these diseases. This is, to our knowledge, the first systematic family study carried out on these diseases.

Methods: Familial risks for siblings who were hospitalised for nerve, nerve root and plexus disorders in Sweden were defined. A nationwide database for neurological diseases was constructed by linking the Multigeneration Register on 0–69-year-old siblings to the Hospital Discharge Register covering the years 1987–2001. Standardised risk ratios (SIRs) were calculated for affected sibling pairs by comparing them with those whose siblings had no neurological disease.

Results: 29 686 patients, 43% men and 57% women, were diagnosed at a mean age of 37.5 years. 191 siblings were hospitalised for these disorders, giving an overall SIR of 2.59 (95% CI 1.58 to 4.22), with no sex difference. Plantar nerve mononeuritis and carpal tunnel syndrome showed the highest familial risks: 4.82 (1.08 to 16.04) and 4.08 (2.07 to 7.84), respectively. Lateral poplitean and plantar nerve neuritis preferentially affected women, with SIRs of >8; disorders of the other cranial nerves affected only men, with an SIR of >10. Concordant trigeminal neuralgia, Bell’s palsy and carpal tunnel syndrome showed familial risks, but, with the exception of Bell’s palsy, they also showed correlation between spouses, implying environmental sharing of risk factors.

Conclusions: The results cannot distinguish between inheritable or shared environmental factors, or their interactions, but they clearly show familial clustering, suggestive of multifactorial aetiology and inviting for aetiological research.

  • ICD, International Classification of Diseases
  • SIR, standardised incidence ratio

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  • Funding: This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (Grant Number. R01-H271084-1), the Swedish Research Council (Grant Number. K2004-21X-11651-09A to Dr JS and K2005-27X-15428-01A to Dr KS), and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (Grant Number. 2001–2373).

  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • This study was approved by the ethics committee at Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.

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