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January 16, 1981

The True 'Pseudo'

JAMA. 1981;245(3):268. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310280044028

What is true? What is false? What is "pseudo"? The first two questions may be difficult to answer in an individual case, but in general they are understandable. The third calls for a reflective pause. On the face of it, "pseudo" is synonymous with false. When prefixing the name of a disease, however, it can give rise to two discordant meanings. In 1942 Albright and his associates described a genetic disease that closely resembled hypoparathyroidism but differed from the latter in its additional clinical features—dwarfism, round head, and short metacarpal and metatarsal bones—and in its pathophysiology. The basic defect responsible for the disordered calcium and phosphorus metabolism was not a quantitative or qualitative deficiency of the parathyroid hormone but the unresponsiveness of renal tubules to its action. Albright et al named the disease pseudohypoparathyroidism. And, when these investigators soon discovered a disease that mimicked pseudohypoparathyroidism in its physical features but