Dystonia following head trauma: a report of nine patients and review of the literature

Mov Disord. 1992;7(3):263-72. doi: 10.1002/mds.870070313.


We report nine patients who developed dystonia following head trauma. The most frequent form was hemidystonia only (six patients). One patient presented with hemidystonia plus torticollis, one with bilateral hemidystonia and one with torticollis only. Seven patients sustained a severe head injury, and two had a mild head injury. At the time of injury, six were younger than 10 years, two were adolescents, and the patient with torticollis only was an adult. Except in the patient with torticollis only, the onset of dystonia varied considerably from months to years. All patients with hemidystonia had posthemiplegic dystonia of delayed onset. Seven out of 8 patients with hemidystonia had lesions involving the contralateral caudate or putamen, as demonstrated by CT and MR. The patient with hemidystonia plus torticollis had no lesion to the basal ganglia, but a contralateral pontomesencephalic lesion. Response to medical treatment was generally poor. Functional stereotactic operations were performed in seven patients. A variety of factors may be responsible for the vascular or nonvascular posttraumatic basal ganglia lesions, which may lead to dystonia. The pathophysiology seems to be more complex than thought previously. We believe that dystonia following head injury is not as rare as is assumed. Awareness of its characteristics and optimized diagnostic procedures will lead to wider recognition of this entity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basal Ganglia / injuries
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / etiology
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / surgery
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / etiology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / surgery
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Dystonia / etiology*
  • Dystonia / surgery
  • Female
  • Hemiplegia / etiology*
  • Hemiplegia / surgery
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Torticollis / etiology*
  • Torticollis / surgery