Demyelinating disorders: update on transverse myelitis

Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2006 May;6(3):236-43. doi: 10.1007/s11910-006-0011-1.


Transverse myelitis (TM) is a focal inflammatory disorder of the spinal cord. Perivascular monocytic and lymphocytic infiltration, demyelination, and axonal injury are prominent histopathogic features of TM. The clinical manifestations of TM are consequent to dysfunction of motor, sensory, and autonomic pathways. At peak deficit, 50% of patients with TM are completely paraplegic (with no volitional movements of legs), virtually all have some degree of bladder dysfunction, and 80% to 94% have numbness, paresthesias, or band-like dysesthesias. Longitudinal case series of TM reveal that approximately one third of patients recover with little to no sequelae, one third are left with a moderate degree of permanent disability, and one third have severe disability. Recent studies have shown that the cytokine interleukin-6 may be a useful biomarker, as the levels of interleukin-6 in the cerebrospinal fluid of acute TM patients strongly correlate with and are highly predictive of disability. Clinical trials testing the efficacy of promising axonoprotective agents in combination with intravenous steroids in the treatment of TM are currently underway.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Demyelinating Diseases* / metabolism
  • Demyelinating Diseases* / pathology
  • Demyelinating Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Demyelinating Diseases* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Myelitis, Transverse* / metabolism
  • Myelitis, Transverse* / pathology
  • Myelitis, Transverse* / physiopathology
  • Myelitis, Transverse* / therapy
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Steroids / therapeutic use


  • Biomarkers
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Steroids