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September 1969

Lhermitte's Sign

Author Affiliations

Durham, NC
From the Divisions of Neurosurgery and Neurology, Duke University Medical Center and the Durham Veterans Administration Hospital, Durham, NC.

Arch Neurol. 1969;21(3):338-339. doi:10.1001/archneur.1969.00480150128016

"LHERMITTE'S sign" is not a sign, nor was it first described by Lhermitte. As a phenomenon perceived only by the patient, it is more properly called a symptom, and the first description was given by Josef Babinski,1 who also gave neurology the extensor toe sign2,3 and the inverted radial reflex.4 The contribution of Jean Lhermitte, the French neurologist, was to point out the value of this symptom as an indicator of early multiple sclerosis.5,6

Unlike many of the other symptoms of early multiple sclerosis, the electrical sensation is rarely encountered in hysterical subjects, and, therefore, it may provide the only evidence of organic disease in an otherwise perplexing case.

Lhermitte correctly surmised that the lesion responsible for the electrical sensation is located in the cervical cord. However, he overemphasized the specificity of this symptom for demyelinating disease. Cervical spondylosis, cervical-cord tumor, and subacute