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Syphilitic myelopathy.
  1. M H Silber
  1. Department of Neurology, Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa.


    Whether the clinical pattern of neurosyphilis has changed since the introduction of penicillin is controversial. This study describes the clinical, laboratory and radiological features of nine patients with syphilitic myelopathy, to assess whether the disease pattern has changed in this subgroup. Four patterns based on clinical course and radiological findings were identified: three patients presented with subacute paraparesis, four with prodromal backache and/or mild leg weakness followed by sudden paraplegia, one patient developed slowly progressive weakness over 4 years and one patient who progressed over one month was shown to have dural thickening on myelography. All patients showed CSF pleocytosis with positive CSF VDRL in seven patients. Despite therapy the prognosis for recovery was not good. Compared with pre-penicillin era studies, the clinical pattern has not significantly changed. Greater alertness to the diagnosis might result in earlier therapy and thus possibly lead to improved prognosis.

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