Acute Transverse and Flaccid Myelitis in Children

  • Liana M. Theroux
  • J. Nicholas BrentonEmail author
Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders (J Graves, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders


Purpose of review

The etiologies of myelitis in children are broad, and our understanding of inflammatory myelopathies in the pediatric population continues to evolve. Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), increasingly linked to enterovirus infections, has risen in incidence over recent years. As with other infectious myelopathies, AFM can be challenging to distinguish from inflammatory causes of acute transverse myelitis (ATM) at initial presentation. This review outlines an approach to the treatment of children presenting with myelopathy of suspected inflammatory etiology, with attention to how management may differ in the specific case of acute flaccid myelitis.

Recent findings

Although high-quality evidence is limited, intravenous corticosteroids, intravenous immunoglobulin, and plasma exchange have important roles in the acute management of ATM. Spinal cord injury in AFM, though similar to ATM in clinical presentation, is largely mediated by direct infection as opposed to a primary inflammatory process, and treatment with corticosteroids may worsen outcomes.


Awareness of the distinguishing clinical features of AFM and the underlying inflammatory conditions that commonly manifest with ATM is essential to judicious selection of appropriate acute (and potentially chronic) therapies in children presenting with myelitis.


Pediatric transverse myelitis Acute flaccid myelitis Inflammatory myelopathy Enterovirus Treatment 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Liana M. Theroux declares no potential conflicts of interest.

J. Nicholas Brenton reports personal fees for consulting for Novartis.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

References and Recommended Reading

Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurology, Division of Pediatric NeurologyUniversity of Virginia Health SystemCharlottesvilleUSA

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