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Eponyms are an established part of medical culture. They have advantages and disadvantages, and proponents and detractors.1–3 They serve many beneficial purposes, most importantly to provide a shorthand description of the entity being described: ‘Parkinson’s disease’ is clearly neater than something like ‘idiopathic tremulous hypokinetic-rigid syndrome’. Eponyms commemorate and perpetuate the names of the observant clinicians who first (at least, in most cases!) described the entities in question. They also allow the user to ‘name drop’, thereby demonstrating membership of the elite medical ‘club’ that knows how and when to use them. However, eponyms have potential drawbacks.2 Incorrect application is, perhaps, the most obvious but, equally worryingly, application of an eponym may stop further thought, and this may result in inappropriate or inadequate patient care.
The Tolosa-Hunt syndrome derives its name from two papers published in 1954 and 1961.4 5 In 1954, Tolosa4 described a 47-year-old man with severe left-sided trigeminal pain and total ophthalmoplegia in whom autopsy subsequently showed granulomatous inflammation in his cavernous sinus. A few years later, Hunt and colleagues presented six patients with unilateral painful ophthalmoplegia …
Contributors The editorial was written by CJL.
Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Not required.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
- Editors’ commentary
- A difficult case
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