Acute Transverse Myelitis

Also Know As Transverse Myelopathy

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Commonality is rare
Incidence is approximately 1 in 178,571 people
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Acute Transverse Myelitis


Acute transverse myelitis is a neurological disease caused by inflammation of the spinal cord, in which the transmission of electrical signals through the body is impaired.

The condition is not genetically inherited, but is most frequently diagnosed in teenagers and adults between the ages of 30 and 40.



While the exact cause of acute transverse myelitis has yet to be identified, it has been hypothesized that the inflammation of the spinal cord is due to an overreaction of the body’s immune system to infection.

Some viral infections which have been associated with the incidence of acute transverse myelitis include:

·         Influenza;

·         HIV;

·         Rubella;

·         Hepatitis A; and

·         Herpes simplex.


Disease pathway

The entire width of part of the spinal cord becomes inflamed. This places excessive pressure on, and damages, the outer fatty layer covering nerve fibres (myelin).

As a result, the transmission of signals from the brain to the rest of the body is disrupted.


Symptoms and diagnosis

In acute transverse myelitis, the onset of symptoms is sudden.

A tight pain in the neck or back is the most common symptom, with some patients reporting that the pain spreads to the limbs and the abdomen.

Other symptoms, caused by damage to the nervous system, include:

·         Abnormal, ‘perceived’ sensations, such as prickliness or tingling;

·         Numbing;

·         Loss of control over the bladder and bowel; and

·         Paralysis.

To confirm the diagnosis of acute transverse myelitis, the doctor may conduct a complete neurological examination. Meanwhile, an MRI will indicate inflammation in the spinal cord, and blood tests may show an abnormally high white blood cell count; suggesting the occurrence of infection.



At present, there is no form of treatment effective in curing acute transverse myelitis. Instead, treatment is aimed at managing, and relieving, symptoms of the disease.

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