CLASSIC descriptions of the ataxias in textbooks are short and convincing, comprising two or three paragraphs, and frequently giving the impression that all of importance is known and well established. Certain "classic, pathognomonic" characteristics are described, with the knowledge of which one can make the diagnosis infallibly: For example, Friedreich's toe indicates Friedreich's ataxia; the Charcot triad, multiple sclerosis. Whereas a certain amount of dogmatism is necessary and may even be justifiable for didactic purposes, the fact remains that a false sense of security is established in an effort to avoid controversial issues.
Examination of the literature discloses considerable confusion concerning ataxia. The confusion is further emphasized by the absence of an adequate review of the subject.
It is felt, therefore, that the present attempt to summarize some of the pertinent data in the literature and associated efforts to simplify the classification of ataxia may be of help to the
FISKE D. THE ATAXIAS: A Review. Arch Intern Med (Chic). 1949;83(6):593–607. doi:10.1001/archinte.1949.00220350003001
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