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Horner syndrome

Last updated: December 23, 2020


Horner syndrome (HS) is a neurological disorder characterized by a symptom triad of miosis (an abnormally small pupil), partial ptosis (drooping of the upper eyelid), and facial anhidrosis (absence of sweating). This condition results from lesions that interrupt the sympathetic nervous supply to the head, eye, and neck. Most cases of HS are idiopathic, but conditions such as brainstem stroke, carotid dissection, and neoplasm are occasionally identified as the cause of HS. Because of the wide array of possible causes, diagnosis of the underlying disorder frequently poses a challenge and requires a systematic approach. Once the lesion has been identified, treatment should be tailored to the specific cause.


Type Anatomical trajectory Typical lesion


Hypothalamus (first neuron) brainstem, cervical, and thoracic spinal cord → ciliospinal center (C8–T2)


Ciliospinal center (second neuron) → pulmonary apex → stellate ganglion superior cervical ganglion


Superior cervical ganglion (third neuron) → internal carotid artery and ophthalmic nerve → iris dilator muscle


Clinical features

Remember the symptoms of Horner syndrome by the great HORNs of the PAMpas deer: Ptosis, Anhidrosis, and Miosis.



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