What is transverse myelitis

What is transverse myelitis? 

Transverse myelitis is an inflammatory process that is localized over several segments of the cord and functionally transects the cord.

It may occur as an infectious or parainfectious illness or as a manifestation of multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica, or other autoimmune process.

Incidence of Transverse myelitis

Transverse myelitis is extremely rare with an incidence of 3 cases per 100,000 patient-years.

Unfortunately, two-thirds of patients have moderate to severe residual disability.

In a significant number of cases (40%), no specific etiology is ever identified.

What are the symptoms of acute transverse myelitis? 

  • The sudden onset of weakness and sensory disturbance in the legs and trunk is the usual presenting feature.
  • Ultimately, sphincter dysfunction is common.
  • Pain and temperature are usually affected, but proprioception and vibration are often spared.
  • The tendon jerks below the lesion may be initially depressed and then hyperactive.
  • A sensory level indicates the level of the lesion.


Brazis P: The localization of lesions affecting cranial nerve V (the trigeminal nerve). In Brazis P, Masdeu J, Biller J (eds): Localization in clinical neurology, ed 3. New York: Little, Brown, 1996.


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