POEMS neuropathy: optimising diagnosis and management

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POEMS syndrome is a rare and disabling autoinflammatory condition characterised by a typical peripheral neuropathy and the presence of a monoclonal plasma cell disorder. The acronym ‘POEMS’ represents the complex and multisystem features of the disease, including polyneuropathy, organomegaly, endocrinopathy, a monoclonal plasma cell disorder and skin disease. The diagnosis of POEMS is a significant challenge because of the heterogeneity of clinical presentations and variation of POEMS features. Patients are often misdiagnosed with another cause of inflammatory neuropathy and receive one or more ineffective immunomodulatory medications, resulting in delayed diagnosis and further clinical deterioration before a diagnosis is made. University College London Hospitals sees one of the largest reported POEMS cohorts in Europe, and runs a multispecialist clinic to assist with diagnosis, treatment and ongoing support. This review draws upon our experience to present the typical features of POEMS syndrome and highlight diagnostic conundrums commonly experienced, supplemented with clinical cases. We provide an investigative guide for clinicians when considering POEMS as the diagnosis, and propose a treatment algorithm that centres on the site and degree of monoclonal cell proliferation.

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