Objective: To determine whether idiopathic recurrent transverse myelitis (RTM) can be distinguished from multiple sclerosis-associated RTM (MSRTM) on the basis of clinical manifestations of myelopathy, or findings from magentic resonance imaging or cerebrospinal fluid examination.
Design: A retrospective analysis of 37 cases was conducted. Patients were classified as having idiopathic RTM on the basis of recurrent myelitis confirmed by clinical manifestations of myelopathy and magnetic resonance imaging findings. On review patients with idiopathic RTM had normal cranial magnetic resonance imagings and did not demonstrate paraclinical evidence of spatial dissemination beyond the spinal cord of the disease process. Patients were classified as having MSRTM on the basis of criteria of Poser et al for clinically definite multiple sclerosis involving the central nervous system. Fifteen patients met study criteria for idiopathic RTM. Twenty-two patients had MSRTM.
Setting: Asan Medical Center, Seoul, South Korea, from January 1, 1992, through December 31, 2001.
Main outcome measures: Presenting symptoms and clinical manifestations, relapsing times, magnetic resonance imaging features (involved spinal cord segments in T2-weighted images and gadolinium 64-enhanced lesions on T1-weighted images), IgG index, and oligoclonal bands in cerebrospinal fluid were compared.
Result: Idiopathic RTM occurred preponderantly in male patients and presented more often with acute transverse myelitis than did MSRTM. More than 2 relapses occurred in 6 cases (40%) of idiopathic RTM. The involved segments of spinal cord on T2-weighted images were not significantly different in idiopathic RTM and MSRTM, with enhancing lesions mostly in the posterior columns, and the spinothalamic and spinocerebellar tracts of white matter. Additionally, almost all patients with idiopathic RTM had normal cerebrospinal fluid indexes.
Conclusion: Idiopathic RTM might be a disease entity distinct from MSRTM, differing in its male preponderance, absence of oligoclonal bands, frequent multiple relapses, and frequent presentation as acute transverse myelitis.