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History of Neurology: Neurology was there
March 2001

Vasovagal SyncopeThe Contributions of Sir William R. Gowers and Sir Thomas Lewis

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2001 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2001

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.