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April 2006

Defending Eponyms

Arch Neurol. 2006;63(4):628. doi:10.1001/archneur.63.4.628-b

In recent correspondence of the ARCHIVES, Schutta1 suggests that eponymous syndromes are both going out of fashion and risking reduced accuracy. Despite the recent advances in molecular sciences, eponyms continue to retain an important place in medical communication, and their use should not be discouraged.

An eponym, derived from the Greek “named after,” is employed at the initial stages of a disease's description, almost always before the full breadth of clinical presentation and its underlying pathophysiologic nature is understood. Naming a syndrome for prominent clinical features is often imprecise, leads to names that are difficult for both patients and clinicians alike (ie, acrocephalosyndactyly for Apert syndrome), and prevents form fruste versions from proper recognition. The pathophysiologic natures of many syndromes remain unknown, and even when known, their descriptions are frequently too cumbersome for routine clinical use (ie, hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase deficiency for Lesch-Nyhan syndrome).

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