[Skip to Navigation]
History of Neurology: Neurology was there
March 2001

Vasovagal Syncope: The Contributions of Sir William R. Gowers and Sir Thomas Lewis

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, Autonomic and Peripheral Nerve Laboratory, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.



Arch Neurol. 2001;58(3):509-511. doi:10.1001/archneur.58.3.509

The term vasovagal has widespread use today in medical parlance. Its origin can be attributed to the eminent 19th century neurologist Sir William R. Gowers. Based entirely on patient histories and examinations, Gowers described a constellation of "vagal" symptoms, such as epigastric, respiratory, and cardiac discomfort, that were associated with vasomotor spasms leading to pallor and coldness. He suggested that the term vasovagal be used to describe seizurelike attacks that were predominately vasomotor in nature. Sir Thomas Lewis later dismissed Gowers' nosological classification, and redefined the term vasovagal using a pathophysiological model based on his research into the electrical properties of the heart.

Add or change institution