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Muscle Nerve. 2003 Oct;28(4):402-22.

Origins and early descriptions of "Duchenne muscular dystrophy".

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Department of Neurology B-182, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Neurology Service, Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 4200 East 9th Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80262, USA.


One of the seminal events in the history of neurology was the identification of primary diseases of muscle and their separation from diseases in which muscle weakness was secondary to injury involving the anterior horns of the spinal cord ("progressive muscular atrophy"). Not surprisingly, one of the first groups of primary muscle diseases to be satisfactorily characterized belonged to what would today be classified as muscular dystrophies. Pride of place in this group belongs to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). DMD's primacy as the first well-characterized muscular dystrophy was due both to the fact that it is relatively common, as well as to the clinically striking feature, apparent in many cases, of apparent paradoxical enlargement of severely weakened muscles ("pseudo-hypertrophy"). This review traces the historical roots of DMD in the 19th century, from the early papers by Conte, Bell, Partridge, and Meryon through the classic monographs by Duchenne and Gowers. In addition, the first American contributions to DMD are reviewed, including those by Pepper, Hammond, and S. Weir Mitchell. Many of the original papers describing this disease are now unavailable outside of major medical libraries, and several important contributions, excepting those of Duchenne, which are recognized eponymously, are now virtually forgotten.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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