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Tracing Sydenham’s chorea: historical documents from a British paediatric hospital
  1. D Martino1,
  2. A Tanner3,
  3. G Defazio4,
  4. A J Church1,
  5. K P Bhatia2,
  6. G Giovannoni1,
  7. R C Dale5
  1. 1Department of Neuroinflammation, Institute of Neurology, University College Medical School, London, UK
  2. 2Sobell Department of Motor Neurosciences and Movement Disorders, Institute of Neurology, University College Medical School, London, UK
  3. 3Department of History, Kingston University, Kingston upon Thames, UK
  4. 4Department of Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences, University of Bari, Italy
  5. 5Neurosciences Unit, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr D Martino
    Department of Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences, University of Bari, Piazza Giulio Cesare, 11 70124 Bari, Italy;


Sydenham’s chorea (SC) became a well defined nosological entity only during the second half of the nineteenth century. Such progress was promoted by the availability of large clinical series provided by newly founded paediatric hospitals. This paper analyses the demographic and clinical features of patients with chorea admitted to the first British paediatric hospital (the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London) between 1852 and 1936. The seasonal and demographic characteristics of SC during this time appear strikingly similar to those observed today, and witness the introduction of modern “statistically averaging” techniques in the approach to complex paediatric syndromes. Great Ormond Street (GOS) hospital case notes provide detailed descriptions of the “typical cases” of SC, and show that British physicians working in the early age of paediatric hospitals succeeded in recognising the most distinctive clinical features of this fascinating condition.

  • GOS, Great Ormond Street
  • RF, rheumatic fever
  • SC, Sydenham’s chorea
  • Sydenham’s chorea
  • paediatric hospitals
  • post-streptococcal disorders

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  • * Spanish for “miscellanea”.

  • Competing interests: none declared

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