The Journal of Laryngology & Otology

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Barré–Lieou syndrome and the problem of the obsolete eponym

C A Foster a1c1 and Jabbour a2
a1 Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado, USA
a2 Department of Neurosurgery, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado, USA

Article author query
foster ca   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
jabbour p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background: Eponym lists in major sources can give an aura of legitimacy to discredited diagnoses, as exemplified by the case of Barré–Lieou syndrome, a ‘rare’ vestibular disorder.

Methods: A literature review for information on the posterior cervical syndrome of Barré–Lieou.

Results: Barré–Lieou syndrome includes very common symptoms – tinnitus, dizziness, and head or neck pain – attributed to ischaemia caused by cervical sympathetic nerve compression. Its original description brings together many unrelated disorders, and its causative mechanism has been discredited. However, it appears credulously in a number of eponym lists, and references to the syndrome are steadily increasing on the internet in general and on alternative medicine and legal profession websites in particular.

Conclusion: By inclusion in eponym lists, without a disclaimer, a syndrome can be given legitimacy before the general public. A syndrome, such as Barré–Lieou syndrome, that is useless to the medical profession can unfortunately prove to be very useful for litigants and disability claimants.

(Published Online October 19 2006)
(Accepted June 1 2006)

Key Words: Autonomic Nervous System Diseases; Eponyms; Spinal Osteophytosis; Vascular Headaches; Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency; Vestibulocochlear Nerve Diseases.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Carol A Foster, Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery, University of Colorado Health Science Center, PO Box 6510, Mail Stop F736, Aurora CO 80045, USA. Fax: 720 848 2857 E-mail: