How is botulinum toxin (BoNT) administered in the treatment of focal dystonias?

Updated: Oct 10, 2019
  • Author: Divakara Kedlaya, MBBS; Chief Editor: Elizabeth A Moberg-Wolff, MD  more...
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Treatment dosages of BoNT-A in the United States have been reported to range from 100-300 U per patient. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, Poewe and colleagues demonstrated that magnitude and duration of improvement were greatest after injections of 1000 U of Dysport, but the injections caused significantly more adverse effects. [94] The researchers recommended a lower starting dose of 500 U of Dysport (1 U of BoNT-A = 3 U of Dysport). One hundred U of toxin per mL of preservative-free normal saline are commonly used.

Injections are performed with a Teflon-coated, 24-gauge needle connected to an electromyographic (EMG) machine. Those muscles with highest clinical and EMG activity are injected. Usually, 2-4 separate muscles are injected in 1 session and, in larger muscles, 2-4 sites per muscle are injected.

No general consensus exists among users of BoNT regarding the need for EMG guidance while injecting the compound for cervical dystonia. EMG guidance, however, is helpful, particularly in obese patients whose neck muscles cannot adequately be palpated.

Identifying the specific muscles involved in cervical dystonia prior to the injection is important. Those most commonly injected are the sternocleidomastoid, trapezius, splenius capitis, and levator scapulae muscles. An EMG study of 100 patients found that 2 or 3 muscles commonly are abnormal. Eighty-nine percent of patients with rotating torticollis had involvement of the ipsilateral splenius capitis and contralateral sternocleidomastoid with or without the additional involvement of the contralateral splenius capitis. Patients with laterocollis had ipsilateral sternocleidomastoid, splenius capitis, and trapezius involvement, while retrocollis was produced by bilateral splenius capitis activity.

Beneficial effect from toxin injection usually is apparent in 7-10 days. Maximum response from the toxin is reached in approximately 4-6 weeks and lasts for an average of 12 weeks. Injections usually are repeated every 3-4 months.

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