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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Transverse myelitis

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How might transverse myelitis be treated?

As with many disorders of the spinal cord, no effective cure currently exists for people with transverse myelitis. Treatments are designed to manage and alleviate symptoms and largely depend upon the severity of neurological involvement. Therapy generally begins when the patient first experiences symptoms. Physicians often prescribe corticosteroid therapy during the first few weeks of illness to decrease inflammation. Although no clinical trials have investigated whether corticosteroids alter the course of transverse myelitis, these drugs often are prescribed to reduce immune system activity because of the suspected autoimmune mechanisms involved in the disorder. Corticosteroid medications that might be prescribed may include methylprednisone or dexamethasone.[1]

Chronic pain is a common complication of transverse myelitis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs — such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, others) — can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.[614] Bed rest is often recommended during the initial days and weeks after onset of the disorder.[1]

Based on patient response and test results, additional therapeutic options may be added. Plasma exchange therapy is often used for those with moderate to severe transverse myelitis who don’t show much improvement after being treated with intravenous steroids.[2][3] This therapy involves removing the straw-colored fluid in which blood cells are suspended (plasma) and replacing the plasma loss with special fluids. It's not certain how this therapy helps people with transverse myelitis, but it may be that plasma exchange removes antibodies that are involved in inflammation.[2]

Some patients respond very well to intravenous cyclophosphamide (a drug often used for lymphomas or leukemia). It is very important that an experienced oncology team be involved in the administration of this drug, and patients should be monitored carefully. Ongoing treatment with chemical agents that modify immune response (such as azathioprine, methotrexate, mycophenolate or oral cyclophosphamide) can be considered for the small subset of patients that experience recurrent transverse myelitis.[3]

Individuals with permanent physical disabilities may benefit from physical therapy, occupational therapy and vocational therapy.[1]
Last updated: 9/7/2015

  1. Transverse Myelitis Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). June 24, 2015;
  2. Transverse Myelitis. February 13, 2014; Accessed 9/3/2015.
  3. Transverse Myelitis. Johns Hopkins University Transverse Myelitis Center. Accessed 9/3/2015.

Clinical Trials & Research for this Disease

  • lists trials that are studying or have studied Transverse myelitis. Click on the link to go to to read descriptions of these studies.
  • The Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT) provides access to reports, data, and analyses of research activities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including information on NIH expenditures and the results of NIH-supported research. Although these projects may not conduct studies on humans, you may want to contact the investigators to learn more. To search for studies, enter the disease name in the "Text Search" box. Then click "Submit Query".

Medical Products

The medication(s) listed in the table(s) below have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of this condition. The FDA Office of Orphan Products Development designates "orphan products" for those that treat rare diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans. The table(s) below may not be an exhaustive list of drugs or products used to treat this condition. There may be other products available that are not considered orphan products. To search for all FDA approved drugs, visit Drugs@FDA. You can find orphan products used to treat other conditions by searching the Orphan Drug Product Designation database.

Generic Name Baclofen
Trade Name
(Manufacturer Name)
Lioresal® (injection)
(Medtronic, Inc.)
The FDA has approved this product to be used in this manner.
Management of severe spasticity of spinal cord origin in patients who are unresponsive to oral baclofen therapy or experience intolerable CNS side effects at effective doses.
More Information about this product Drug Information Portal
Medline Plus Health Information

See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.