October 1990

Progressive Myoclonic Ataxia (The Ramsay Hunt Syndrome)

Author Affiliations

From the University Departments of Clinical Neurology, Institutes of Neurology (Drs Marsden and Harding) and Psychiatry (Dr Lu), London, England, and the Departamento de Neurologia, Clinica Universitaria, Pamplona, Spain (Dr Obeso).

Arch Neurol. 1990;47(10):1121-1125. doi:10.1001/archneur.1990.00530100091019

• It has been suggested from studies of patients with progressive myoclonus epilepsy that the term Ramsay Hunt syndrome should be abandoned, as its use has led to nosologic confusion, and because, in the light of modern diagnostic techniques, the majority of cases can be allocated to specific disease categories, chiefly, Unverricht-Lundborg disease (Baltic myoclonus) and mitochondrial encephalomyopathy. Review of 30 cases of this syndrome, defined as progressive ataxia and myoclonus and infrequent seizures in the absence of dementia, showed that a clinical or biochemically supported diagnosis could not be made in 43%. This low diagnostic yield probably reflects differences in ascertainment of patients; those described here were referred with a syndrome of progressive myoclonic ataxia (the Ramsay Hunt syndrome) rather than progressive myoclonus epilepsy. These two syndromes share common causes, but a smaller proportion of patients with progressive myoclonic ataxia can currently be diagnosed precisely during life.