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Research paper
Rest and other types of tremor in adult-onset primary dystonia
  1. Roberto Erro1,
  2. Ignacio Rubio-Agusti1,2,
  3. Tabish A Saifee1,
  4. Carla Cordivari3,
  5. Christos Ganos1,4,
  6. Amit Batla1,
  7. Kailash P Bhatia1
  1. 1Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, University College London (UCL) Institute of Neurology, London, UK
  2. 2Movement Disorders Unit, Neurology Department, Hospital Universitari La Fe, Valencia, Spain
  3. 3Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London, UK
  4. 4Department of Neurology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), Hamburg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kailash P Bhatia, Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, UCL Institute of Neurology, 7 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK; k.bhatia{at}


Introduction Knowledge regarding tremor prevalence and phenomenology in patients with adult-onset primary dystonia is limited. Dystonic tremor is presumably under-reported, and we aimed to assess the prevalence and the clinical correlates of tremor in patients with adult-onset primary dystonia.

Methods We enrolled 473 consecutive patients with different types of adult-onset primary dystonia. They were assessed for presence of head tremor and arm tremor (rest, postural and kinetic).

Results A total of 262 patients (55.4%) were tremulous: 196 patients presented head tremor, 140 patients presented arm tremor and 98 of them had a combination of head and arm tremor. Of the 140 patients with arm tremor, all presented postural tremor, 103 patients (73.6%) presented also a kinetic component, whereas 57 patients (40.7%) had rest tremor. Rest tremor was unilateral/asymmetric in up to 92.9% of them. Patients with segmental and multifocal dystonia were more likely tremulous than patients with focal dystonia. Dystonic symptoms involving the neck were more frequently observed in patients with head tremor, whereas dystonic symptoms involving the arms were more frequently observed in patients with arm tremor.

Discussion Here we show that tremor is a common feature of patients with adult-onset primary dystonia. It may involve different body segments, with the head being the most commonly affected site. Arm tremor is also frequent (postural>kinetic>rest), occurring in up to one-third of cases. There is a suggestion of a stronger tendency for spread of dystonic features in patients with associated tremor. Dystonic tremor is under-reported and this underscores the importance of careful clinical examination when assessing tremulous patients without overt dystonia.

  • Dystonia
  • Tremor

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