The clinical course of neuromyelitis optica (Devic's syndrome)

Dean M. Wingerchuk, William F. Hogancamp, Peter C. O'Brien, Brian G. Weinshenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1412 Scopus citations


Objectives: To evaluate the spectrum of neuromyelitis optica (NMO), including Characteristics of the index events (optic neuritis [ON]) and myelitis), neuroimaging, CSF, and serologic studies, and to evaluate the long-term course. Methods: Review of 71 patients with NMO evaluated at the Mayo Clinic between 1950 and 1997. Results: NMO was either monophasic or relapsing. Patients with a monophasic course (n = 23) usually presented with rapidly sequential index events (median 5 days) with moderate recovery. Most with a relapsing course (n = 48) had an extended interval between index events (median 166 days) followed within 3 years by clusters of severe relapses isolated to the optic nerves and spinal cord. Most relapsing patients developed severe disability in a stepwise manner, and one-third died because of respiratory failure. Features of NMO distinct from 'typical' MS included >50 cells/mm3 in CSF (often polymorphonuclear), normal initial brain MRI, and lesions extending over three or more vertebral segments on spinal cord MRI. Conclusions: Clinical, laboratory, and imaging features generally distinguish neuromyelitis optica from MS. Patients with relapsing optic neuritis and myelitis may have neuromyelitis optica rather than MS. Patients with a relapsing course of neuromyelitis optica have a poor prognosis and frequently develop respiratory failure during attacks of cervical myelitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1107-1114
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 22 1999


  • Devic's syndrome
  • MS
  • Myelitis
  • Neuromyelitis optica
  • Optic neuritis
  • Prognosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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