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Barré–Lieou syndrome and the problem of the obsolete eponym

  • C A Foster (a1) and P Jabbour (a2)

Background: Eponym lists in major sources can give an aura of legitimacy to discredited diagnoses, as exemplified by the case of Barré–Lieou syndrome, a ‘rare’ vestibular disorder.

Methods: A literature review for information on the posterior cervical syndrome of Barré–Lieou.

Results: Barré–Lieou syndrome includes very common symptoms – tinnitus, dizziness, and head or neck pain – attributed to ischaemia caused by cervical sympathetic nerve compression. Its original description brings together many unrelated disorders, and its causative mechanism has been discredited. However, it appears credulously in a number of eponym lists, and references to the syndrome are steadily increasing on the internet in general and on alternative medicine and legal profession websites in particular.

Conclusion: By inclusion in eponym lists, without a disclaimer, a syndrome can be given legitimacy before the general public. A syndrome, such as Barré–Lieou syndrome, that is useless to the medical profession can unfortunately prove to be very useful for litigants and disability claimants.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr Carol A Foster, Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery, University of Colorado Health Science Center, PO Box 6510, Mail Stop F736, Aurora CO 80045, USA. Fax: 720 848 2857 E-mail:
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The Journal of Laryngology & Otology
  • ISSN: 0022-2151
  • EISSN: 1748-5460
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-laryngology-and-otology
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