BACKGROUND: Diagnosis of focal dystonia is based on clinical grounds and is therefore open to bias. To date, diagnostic guidelines have been only proposed for blepharospasm and laryngeal dystonia. To provide practical guidance for clinicians with less expertise in dystonia, a group of Italian Movement Disorder experts formulated clinical diagnostic recommendations for cervical, oromandibular, and limb dystonia.
METHODS: A panel of four neurologists generated a list of clinical items related to the motor phenomenology of the examined focal dystonias and a list of clinical features characterizing neurological/non-neurological conditions mimicking dystonia. Thereafter, ten additional expert neurologists assessed the diagnostic relevance of the selected features and the content validity ratio was calculated. The clinical features reaching a content validity ratio > 0.5 contributed to the final recommendations.
RESULTS: The recommendations retained patterned and repetitive movements/postures as the core feature of dystonia in different body parts. If present, a sensory trick confirmed diagnosis of dystonia. In the patients who did not manifest sensory trick, active exclusion of clinical features related to conditions mimicking dystonia (features that would be expected to be absent in dystonia) would be necessary for dystonia to be diagnosed.
DISCUSSION: Although reliability, sensitivity, and specificity of the recommendations are yet to be demonstrated, information from the present study would hopefully facilitate diagnostic approach to focal dystonias in the clinical practice and would be the basis for future validated diagnostic guidelines.