Selective peripheral denervation for the treatment of intractable spasmodic torticollis: experience with 168 patients at the Mayo Clinic

J Neurosurg. 2003 Jun;98(6):1247-54. doi: 10.3171/jns.2003.98.6.1247.


Object: Selective peripheral denervation is currently the primary surgical treatment for intractable cervical dystonia. The authors assessed preoperative factors to determine which, if any, correlated with outcomes in patients with torticollis who had undergone this procedure.

Methods: The records of 168 consecutive patients who had undergone selective peripheral denervation for cervical dystonia between 1988 and 1996 at the Mayo Clinic were reviewed. There were 89 women (53%) and 79 men (47%) with a mean age of 53.4 years. Selection of muscles for denervation was based on the patient's clinical presentation and electromyography mapping results. The most common torticollis vectors were rotational in 141 patients (84%) and laterocollis in 59 (35%). Seventy patients (42%) presented with combined vectors. The technique used to remedy both conditions involved denervation of the ipsilateral posterior cervical paraspinal and splenius capitis muscles. Denervation of the sternocleidomastoid muscle was performed on the contralateral side for rotational torticollis and on the ipsilateral side for laterocollis. A rigorous physical therapy program followed surgery. At the 3-month postoperative evaluation, 125 patients (77%) of the 162 who were available for follow up had moderate to excellent improvement in their head position, and pain was moderately to markedly improved in 131 patients (81%). The long-term follow up lasted a mean of 3.4 years and was undertaken in 130 patients. The original level of moderate to excellent improvement in head position and pain was retained in at least 71 patients (70%). Outcome was not predicted by preoperative head position, severity of abnormal posture of head, symptom duration, presence of tremor or phasic dystonic movements, or failure to respond to botulinum toxin treatment. Five patients recovered from postoperative complications including one myocardial infarction, one pulmonary embolism, and three respiratory failures. Three patients suffered from persistent C-2 distribution dysesthesias and three from slight shoulder weakness; one had a wound infection, and one died of respiratory arrest.

Conclusions: Selective peripheral denervation is an effective method of achieving lasting improvement of dystonia in most patients with intractable torticollis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electromyography / instrumentation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Denervation* / instrumentation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Neck
  • Postoperative Care
  • Posture / physiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spine
  • Torticollis / diagnosis
  • Torticollis / physiopathology
  • Torticollis / surgery*