Barré–Lieou syndrome and the problem of the obsolete eponym
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: email@example.com