Fifty-four patients with dancing eye syndrome (DES), presenting over a 25-year period, were reviewed retrospectively. One third of them were on active follow up at the time of the study. Malignancy was uncommon, diagnosed in only 4 patients, neuroblastoma in 3 cases and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in 1. An intercurrent illness preceded onset of DES in 51% of the children and was of equivocal significance. There was no clear temporal relationship to immunization. The acute phase of the illness was severe and caused total immobilization in 88% of patients. A favourable initial response to treatment with prednisolone or corticotrophin gel was observed in all patients. Although corticotrophin seemed to produce a more rapid response, overall improvement was similar with both treatments. Long-term neurological morbidity was a major problem with 91% of children suffering either persisting symptoms or repeated relapses. A persisting disability was found in 88% and was considered severe in 61% of patients. No features prognostic of neurological severity or outcome were identified.
Conclusion: Demonstrable malignancy is uncommon in the dancing eye syndrome. The neurological legacy of DES is often evident well into adult life.