The relation between somatosensory mechanisms and self-injury among children with neurologic impairments associated with developmental delay is not well understood. We evaluated the feasibility of procuring skin biopsies to examine epidermal nerve fiber density and reported self-injury. Following informed parental consent, epidermal skin biopsies were obtained from a distal leg site with no pre-existing skin damage from 11 children with global developmental delay (55% male; mean age = 36.8 months, 17-63 months). Visual microscopic examination and quantitative analyses showed extremely high epidermal nerve fiber density values for some children. Children with reported self-injury (5/11) had significantly (P <.02) greater density values (138.8, standard deviation = 45.5) than children without self-injury (80.5, standard deviation = 17.5). Results from this novel immunohistologic analysis of skin in very young children with neurodevelopmental delays suggest it may be a useful tool to study peripheral innervation as a possible sensory risk factor for self-injury.
- developmental delay
- peripheral innervation