Kozhevnikov epilepsy: the disease and its eponym

Epilepsia. 2011 Feb;52(2):212-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2010.02900.x. Epub 2011 Jan 4.


Eponyms continue to have their place in medicine but there are pitfalls associated with their use. "Priorities" may be debatable, misattributions are not uncommon, and knowledge of the original papers is often insufficient. A. Ya. Kozhevnikov (1836-1902) is considered to be the founder of the Russian neurology, best known in the West for his work on epilepsia partialis continua (EPC), published in 1894. Kozhevnikov considered various natures for this disorder but thought chronic infectious etiology to be the most probable. Shortly the eponym Kozhevnikov epilepsy was coined and used in clinical practice and writing. Thirty-five years after Kozhevnikov's death, in 1937, a new form of viral encephalitis, Russian spring-summer tick-borne encephalitis (RTBE), was discovered, which was strongly associated with EPC and at times incorrectly attributed to Kozhevnikov by Russian (Soviet) and West-European scientists, although he never specifically identified or even could have recognized this disease entity. When, in 1958, Canadian scientists published about persisting focal epilepsy due to chronic focal encephalitis in children, a new disease was proclaimed: Rasmussen syndrome or Rasmussen chronic encephalitis. The only reference to Kozhevnikov in the Canadian papers was the incorrect suggestion that Kozhevnikov himself described EPC in RTBE. This historical error resulted in continuing misquotations of Kozhevnikov in the current literature and controversies concerning the place of Kozhevnikov epilepsy in the Classification Scheme of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE). The history of Kozhevnikov epilepsy thereby offers an illustrative example of the successive misunderstandings, errors, and controversies that arise due to insufficient knowledge or understanding of the original publications, questionable post hoc interpretations of earlier findings, misquoting of secondary papers, or a combination of all these.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Encephalitis / physiopathology
  • Encephalitis, Tick-Borne / complications
  • Epilepsia Partialis Continua / etiology
  • Epilepsia Partialis Continua / history*
  • Epilepsia Partialis Continua / physiopathology
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Neurology / history
  • Russia
  • Seizures / etiology

Personal name as subject

  • A Kozhevnikov