A systematic review on the diagnosis and treatment of primary (idiopathic) dystonia and dystonia plus syndromes: report of an EFNS/MDS-ES Task Force

Eur J Neurol. 2006 May;13(5):433-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-1331.2006.01537.x.


To review the literature on primary dystonia and dystonia plus and to provide evidence-based recommendations. Primary dystonia and dystonia plus are chronic and often disabling conditions with a widespread spectrum mainly in young people. Computerized MEDLINE and EMBASE literature reviews (1966-1967 February 2005) were conducted. The Cochrane Library was searched for relevant citations. Diagnosis and classification of dystonia are highly relevant for providing appropriate management and prognostic information, and genetic counselling. Expert observation is suggested. DYT-1 gene testing in conjunction with genetic counselling is recommended for patients with primary dystonia with onset before age 30 years and in those with an affected relative with early onset. Positive genetic testing for dystonia (e.g. DYT-1) is not sufficient to make diagnosis of dystonia. Individuals with myoclonus should be tested for the epsilon-sarcoglycan gene (DYT-11). A levodopa trial is warranted in every patient with early onset dystonia without an alternative diagnosis. Brain imaging is not routinely required when there is a confident diagnosis of primary dystonia in adult patients, whereas it is necessary in the paediatric population. Botulinum toxin (BoNT) type A (or type B if there is resistance to type A) can be regarded as first line treatment for primary cranial (excluding oromandibular) or cervical dystonia and can be effective in writing dystonia. Actual evidence is lacking on direct comparison of the clinical efficacy and safety of BoNT-A vs. BoNT-B. Pallidal deep brain stimulation (DBS) is considered a good option, particularly for generalized or cervical dystonia, after medication or BoNT have failed to provide adequate improvement. Selective peripheral denervation is a safe procedure that is indicated exclusively in cervical dystonia. Intrathecal baclofen can be indicated in patients where secondary dystonia is combined with spasticity. The absolute and comparative efficacy and tolerability of drugs in dystonia, including anticholinergic and antidopaminergic drugs, is poorly documented and no evidence-based recommendations can be made to guide prescribing.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Botulinum Toxins / therapeutic use
  • Brain / pathology
  • Counseling
  • Denervation
  • Dopamine Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Dystonia / classification
  • Dystonia / diagnosis*
  • Dystonia / genetics
  • Dystonia / therapy*
  • Genetic Techniques
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Syndrome


  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Botulinum Toxins