Eponyms are often claimed to facilitate learning and provide shorthand reference. Contrary to this intention, signs and symptoms in aortic regurgitation carry as many as 31 eponyms.11
Not surprisingly, some may remember the eponym while being unable to describe its meaning. In a systematic study, only 10 of 92 orthopaedic surgeons were able to give the correct description of Finkelstein's test for diagnosing tendovaginitis.12
Experienced trauma surgeons may spend some time in debating whether a fracture is a Barton's, a Smith II, or a reversed Barton's.13
To make matters more complicated, some diseases have different eponyms in different countries.10
For example, giant cell arteritis is known as Morbus Horton in Germany and maladie de Horton in France, but the term Horton's disease is virtually unknown in the United States. Different ways of spelling add just another level of complexity. Should ankylosing spondylitis be knows as Bechterew's disease as in Germany or Bekhterew's as in other countries?10
Or Marie Strümpell disease as elsewhere in the world? Finally, eponyms may have two completely different diseases attached to them: de Quervain's disease can be tendovaginitis of the hand or a rare thyroid disorder.
In the face of such confusion, it is not surprising that pleas for a more descriptive classification have emerged, particularly from specialties where eponyms were heavily used. Trauma surgeons have introduced the AO nomenclature,13
while neuroscientists have called for a nomenclature that refers to the site of the lesion.14
Eponyms lack accuracy, lead to confusion, and hamper scientific discussion in a globalised world. Instead of using eponyms, we should use our interest in medical history to provide fair and truthful accounts of scientific discoveries and to dissect individual contributions. We call on the editors of medical journals and textbooks to abandon the use of eponyms.