Electromyographic evaluation of cervical dystonia for planning of botulinum toxin therapy

Eur J Neurol. 2000 Nov;7(6):713-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-1331.2000.00161.x.


The success of botulinum toxin (BT) injections for treatment of cervical dystonia depends on precise identification of dystonic muscles and on quantification of their dystonic involvement. Conventionally, this is attempted by clinical examination analysing the dystonic head position. In this presentation, a more systematic approach is sought by using an electromyography (EMG)-based evaluation procedure. In 10 consecutive patients with cervical dystonia not previously exposed to BT clinical examination, analysing the dystonic head position was performed to classify patients into four groups with similar dystonic head positions. Additionally, a 2-channel concentric needle EMG was used to measure the amplitudes of dystonic and maximal voluntary activities in sternocleidomastoid (SCM), splenius capitis (SC) and trapezius/semispinalis capitis (T/SS) muscles bilaterally. The ratio between both amplitudes, the dystonia ratio, was used to quantify dystonic muscle involvement. In all patients dystonia ratios could be calculated. In patients with similar head positions, EMG evaluation revealed different qualitative and quantitative dystonic involvement patterns. In six patients, there were discrepancies in identification of dystonic muscles between clinical examination and EMG evaluation. EMG evaluation excluded dystonic involvement in five patients. All excluded muscles were SCM. In one of these patients, additional T/SS involvement was detected by EMG evaluation. In one patient, SC involvement was revealed by EMG evaluation. All dystonic muscle involvement detected by EMG evaluation represented genuine dystonic muscle coactivation rather than compensatory muscle activity. The EMG evaluation presented allows quantitative and qualitative identification of dystonic muscle involvement which cannot be achieved by clinical examination. Both pieces of information may be helpful for optimization of BT therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Botulinum Toxins / therapeutic use*
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A
  • Dystonia / diagnosis
  • Dystonia / drug therapy*
  • Dystonia / physiopathology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Head Movements
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Posture
  • Torticollis / drug therapy
  • Torticollis / physiopathology


  • rimabotulinumtoxinB
  • Botulinum Toxins
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A