Neuromyelitis optica

Historical note and nomenclature
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By Adil Javed MD PhD and John Pula MD

Thomas Albutt is given credit for initially describing the syndrome now called neuromyelitis optica (Albutt 1870). Albutt observed that some patients with myelitis had co-existent funduscopic abnormalities, and these patients tended to have a more severe disease course. Eugene Devic, a French physician, was initially interested in studying typhoid fever. But Devic’s eponymic distinction later emerged after he summarized the known cases of neuromyelitis optica along with his own observations in 1894 and presented them at the French Congress of Medicine in Lyon, coining the terms “neuro-myélite” and “neuroptico-myélite” (Devic 1894). In 1907, the term Devic disease was first used, and since then, Devic’s name has been associated with this disease. Devic concluded his original observations with 2 questions that remain valid today: Why such a peculiar localization of pathology? What is the intimate nature of the process?