Modern Look at Transverse Myelitis and Inflammatory Myelopathy: Epidemiology of the National Veterans Health Administration Population

Background and Objectives

To characterize population-level data associated with transverse myelitis (TM) within the US Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

Methods

This retrospective review used VHA electronic medical record from 1999 to 2015. We analyzed prevalence, disease characteristics, modified Rankin Scale (mRS) scores, and mortality data in patients with TM based on the 2002 Diagnostic Criteria.

Results

We identified 4,084 patients with an International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code consistent with TM and confirmed the diagnosis in 1,001 individuals (90.7% males, median age 64.2, 67.7% Caucasian, and 31.4% smokers). The point prevalence was 7.86 cases per 100,000 people. Less than half of the cohort underwent a lumbar puncture, whereas only 31.8% had a final, disease-associated TM diagnosis. The median mRS score at symptom onset was 3 (interquartile range 2–4), which remained unchanged at follow-up, although less than half (43.2%) of the patients received corticosteroids, IVIg, or plasma exchange. Approximately one-quarter of patients (24.3%) had longitudinal extensive TM, which was associated with poorer outcomes (p = 0.002). A total of 108 patients (10.8%) died during our review (94.4% males, median age 66.5%, and 70.4% Caucasian). Mortality was associated with a higher mRS score at follow-up (OR 1.94, 95% CI, 1.57–2.40) and tobacco use (OR 1.87, 95% CI, 1.17–2.99).

Discussion

This national TM review highlights the relatively high prevalence of TM in a modern cohort. It also underscores the importance of a precise and thorough workup in this disabling disorder to ensure diagnostic precision and ensure optimal management for patients with TM in the future.

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