Response to Letter to the Editor: “Comparison of Acyclovir and Famciclovir for Ramsay Hunt Syndrome”
We analyzed 756 articles on Ramsay Hunt syndrome in PubMed, including original research studies, review articles, clinical case studies, clinical trials, opinions, commentaries, and book reviews. Of these articles, 172 (22.7%) had misspellings, used inconsistent terms, or were otherwise written incorrectly. Incorrect terms or misspellings included “Ramsay-Hunt syndrome” in 127 (16.7%) articles, “Ramsey Hunt syndrome” in 22 (2.9%), “Ramsay Hunt's syndrome” in 13 (1.7%), “Hunt syndrome” in four (0.5%), “Ramsay-Hunt's syndrome” in three (0.3%), “ramsay hunt syndrome” in two (0.2%), and “Hunt's syndrome” in one (0.1%).
Eponyms are a long-standing tradition and in daily use in medicine. Eponyms usually indicate the name of a person, honoring a prominent physician or scientist who played a major role in the identification of a disease. Medical eponyms are often practical and a form of medical shorthand. Moreover, they make medicine more colorful and embed medical traditions and culture in our history (2). The advantages of an agreed-upon eponym cannot be ignored, as these are considered labels or handles, and are useful substitutes for cumbersome, tongue-twisters (3).
Others, however, believe that eponyms lack accuracy, lead to confusion, and hamper scientific discussions worldwide (4). That is, medical eponyms do not reflect the clinical characteristics of their respective diseases. When an eponym is not sufficiently descriptive, the use of suitable descriptive terminology based on the pathophysiology of a disease tends to increase gradually.
Another drawback to the use of eponyms is that they usually refer to one person whereas scientific discoveries often reflect a group effort over time (5). Eponymous distinction has often been conferred on individuals who published in a more accessible journal or language; and influence, politics, or even luck has also played a role. To complicate matters, some diseases have different eponyms in different countries (6).
Inconsistency in the use of medical eponyms remains a major problem in literature searches. Appropriate and uniform use of nomenclature for a clinical disorder is vital for its identification and classification and for retrieval of information from public databases.