Declining use of the eponym "Reiter's syndrome" in the medical literature, 1998-2003

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Oct;53(4):720-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2005.06.048.


The German physician Hans Reiter (1881-1969) is associated eponymously with the syndrome of arthritis, urethritis, and conjunctivitis occurring during or after episodes of diarrhea or urethritis. During World War II, Reiter, a physician leader of the Nazi party, authorized medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners. Because of this, some physicians have argued against further use of the Reiter eponym. We investigated trends in use of the Reiter eponym from 1998 to 2003. We searched MEDLINE to identify English-language articles published between 1998 and 2003. Articles were classified by whether the eponym was used without qualification (ie, without mentioning its disfavored use) or not. Five hundred thirty-nine articles were identified. Use of the eponym without qualification was less common in articles published later (34.0% in 2003 vs 57.0% in 1998; adjusted relative risk [RR], 0.49, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.27-0.71; P = .001) and in articles published in higher impact journals (36.8% vs 56.8% in journals without calculated impact factors; adjusted RR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.29-0.73; P = .002). Use without qualification was more common in articles written by US-based authors (60.6% vs 31.1% for European-based authors; adjusted RR, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.58-2.97; P < .001). We concluded that use of the Reiter eponym without qualification decreased from 1998 to 2003.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Reactive / epidemiology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Eponyms*
  • Germany
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • National Socialism / history

Personal name as subject

  • Hans Reiter