Acute Transverse Myelitis

What is acute transverse myelitis?

Acute transverse myelitis (ATM) involves a brief but intense attack of inflammation (swelling) in the spinal cord that damages myelin. Myelin is the protective covering of nerve fibers. Myelin is also called "white matter" due to its color. Because ATM affects myelin, it is a type of "demyelinating" disorder.  The spinal cord transmits information between the brain and the body. ATM usually affects the middle (thoracic) portion of the spinal cord. In some cases, it can affect the upper (cervical) portion of the spinal cord.

Most children with ATM make a complete or nearly complete recovery. The main medication for treating ATM is a type of steroid and most children tolerate the medication very well. Although ATM is related to multiple sclerosis (MS), ATM typically occurs only once, and only in the spinal cord, while a child with MS has further, repeated attacks in both the brain and spinal cord.

How we care for acute transverse myelitis

Boston Children's Hospital treats children with ATM through our Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders Program. The program team is led by doctors specializing in demyelinating disorders, and includes a pediatric neuropsychologist, a nurse and a social worker.