Dystonias are relatively rare disorders characterized by sustained or intermittent muscle contractions causing abnormal movements or postures. Generalized dystonia is a therapeutic challenge because medications are unable to control dystonia adequately in most patients. These patients may be candidates for surgical therapy. The commonly used surgical procedures in these patients are pallidotomy and deep brain stimulation. Limited studies are available on the role of pallidotomy in children with acquired/heredodegenerative generalized dystonia. The objective of this study was to describe the authors’ experience with bilateral pallidotomy in this group of patients.
The authors retrospectively reviewed all pediatric patients (less than 18 years of age) with acquired/heredodegenerative generalized dystonia who underwent bilateral simultaneous pallidotomy at their center between January 2014 and January 2021. Burke-Fahn-Marsden Dystonia Rating Scale (BFMDRS) scores before and after surgery were recorded. Complications arising after the procedure were recorded as well.
Ten patients (8 male and 2 female) with a mean (range) age of 11.1 (5–17) years were included in this study. The mean duration between disease onset and surgical intervention was 3.9 years. Two patients presented in status dystonicus. The mean ± SD (range) preoperative BFMDRS score of the patients without status dystonicus (n = 8) was 80 ± 18.9 (59.5–108). The mean ± SD BFMDRS score at the time of discharge from the hospital after surgery was 58.8 ± 37.9. Three patients had more than 20% change in BFMDRS score at the time of discharge from the hospital. The mean improvement was 25.5% at the end of 1 year. Of 5 surviving patients in the non–status dystonicus group, 3 patients had more than 40% change in BFMDRS score while the other 2 patients developed recurrence at the last follow-up (4.5 years). Status dystonicus abated after bilateral pallidotomy in both patients. Permanent bulbar complications were seen in 2 patients.
Bilateral pallidotomy may result in clinically significant improvement in children with acquired/heredodegenerative generalized dystonia, although the benefits should be closely weighed against the risk of irreversible bulbar dysfunction. It is a viable option for children in resource-limited settings.