Classification and treatment of tardive syndromes

Neurologist. 2003 Jan;9(1):16-27. doi: 10.1097/01.nrl.0000038585.58012.97.


Background: Tardive syndromes are a group of delayed-onset abnormal involuntary movement disorders induced by a dopamine receptor blocking agent. There are several phenomenologically distinct types of TS.

Review summary: The term tardive dyskinesia has been used to refer to the TS that presents with rapid, repetitive, stereotypic movements mostly involving the oral, buccal, and lingual areas. Tardive dystonia can be focal, segmental, or generalized. It commonly affects the face and neck followed by the arms and trunk. It usually results in retrocollis when it involves the neck and trunk arching backwards when it involves the trunk. Tardive akathisia is characterized by a feeling of inner restlessness and jitteriness with an inability to sit or stand still. Other tardive syndromes include tardive tics, myoclonus, tremor, and withdrawal-emergent syndrome. It remains unclear whether tardive parkinsonism truly exists. The only way to prevent TS is to avoid its etiologic agents. Chronic use of dopamine receptor blocking agents should be limited as much as possible to patients with chronic psychoses. In general, for mild TS, reducing the neuroleptic dose, switching to an atypical agent, or discontinuing antipsychotic treatment altogether in the hope of facilitating remission is recommended. For moderate to severe TS, tetrabenazine or reserpine may be the most effective agent. Neuroleptics should be resumed to treat TD in the absence of active psychosis only as a last resort for persistent, disabling, and treatment-resistant TD.

Conclusions: The severity of the TS and the absolute need for antipsychotic therapy often dictate the treatment approach for this disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Akathisia, Drug-Induced / classification*
  • Akathisia, Drug-Induced / etiology
  • Akathisia, Drug-Induced / therapy*
  • Dopamine Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Movement Disorders / classification*
  • Movement Disorders / etiology
  • Movement Disorders / therapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Syndrome


  • Dopamine Antagonists