Acute transverse myelitis (ATM) is commonly para-infectious. Recurrent ATM occurs in connective tissue diseases (CTD), infective myelitis and idiopathic inflammatory demyelinating disorders (IIDD) including multiple sclerosis (MS) and neuromyelitis optica (NMO). Previous studies might include NMO and idiopathic recurrent transverse myelitis (IRTM) as MS. The aim was to study the outcome of patients after a first attack of idiopathic ATM. Idiopathic ATM patients over a 6-year period were retrospectively studied. Known causes of myelopathy were excluded. Among 32 patients studied, 20 (63%) had single ATM attack upon follow up for 39–93 months, three developed recurrent ATM related to CTD (two systemic lupus erythematosus and one anti-Ro antibody positive) and nine (28.1%) developed recurrent neuroinflammation compatible with IIDD. Among IIDD patients, three had NMO, two restricted variant of NMO, three IRTM and one classical MS. NMO, its variant and IRTM had mean spinal MRI abnormality of 3.7, 2.1 and 3.9 vertebral segments respectively while non-recurrent ATM had 1.6 vertebral segments. Four (80%) of the five patients with NMO or its variant had poor neurological prognosis versus only one (5%) of non-recurrent ATM patients. IRTM patients had advanced mean onset age, 62 years vs. 43 years for non-recurrent ATM patients. In IIDD patients presenting with ATM as first attack of neuroinflammation, NMO and its variant (56%) were most frequent, then IRTM (33%), with classical MS (11%) the rarest. As long-term treatments for NMO are different from MS, early recognition of NMO and its variant is important for prevention of serious neurological deficits.