Comparison of clinical vs. electrophysiological methods of diagnosing of essential tremor

Mov Disord. 2001 Jul;16(4):668-73. doi: 10.1002/mds.1144.


Essential tremor (ET) may be differentiated from normal or enhanced physiological tremor based on a clinical examination or electrophysiological tests such as quantitative computerized tremor analysis. There have been few head to head comparisons of the two methods. Our objective was to estimate diagnostic agreement between these two methods. Cases and controls underwent a clinical evaluation (interview and videotaped examination) and an electrophysiological evaluation (quantitative computerized tremor analysis using accelerometry and electromyography) on the same day, and diagnoses were independently assigned using clinical vs. electrophysiological criteria. Agreement between diagnoses was assessed with a concordance rate and kappa statistic (kappa).Thirty-two (59.3%) of 54 subjects were diagnosed clinically as ET (possible, probable, or definite), compared with 35 (64.8%) of 54 based on tremor analysis. The concordance rate between the two methods of diagnosis was 94.4% (51 of 54). Kappa was 0.88, indicating a level of agreement between diagnoses that was in the "near perfect" range. All of the subjects who received electrophysiological diagnoses of definite ET also received clinical diagnoses of ET. Conversely, all of the subjects who received clinical diagnoses of definite ET also received electrophysiological diagnoses of ET. The agreement between the clinical and electrophysiological diagnosis of ET was substantial, suggesting that study protocols that were to utilize either technique would arrive at similar diagnostic conclusions. In addition, physiological testing can quantify potentially valuable subclinical measurements as well as detect possible additional cases of ET not diagnosed as such during clinical assessments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted
  • Electrodiagnosis / instrumentation*
  • Electromyography / instrumentation*
  • Essential Tremor / diagnosis*
  • Essential Tremor / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Neurologic Examination*
  • Observer Variation
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation*
  • Videotape Recording