Botox injection for Dystonia and Cerebral Palsy

Hemifacial spasm (HFS) is a rare neuromuscular disease characterized by irregular, involuntary muscle contractions (spasms) on one side (hemi-) of the face (-facial). The facial muscles are controlled by the facial nerve (seventh cranial nerve), which originates at the brainstem and exits the skull below the ear where it separates into five main branches.

This disease takes two forms: typical and atypical. In typical form, the twitching usually starts in the lower eyelid in orbicularis oculi muscle. As time progresses, it spreads to the whole lid, then to the orbicularis oris muscle around the lips, and buccinator muscle in the cheekbone area. The reverse process of twitching occurs in atypical hemifacial spasm; twitching starts in orbicularis oris muscle around the lips, and buccinator muscle in the cheekbone area in the lower face, then progresses up to the orbicularis oculi muscle in the eyelid as time progresses.The most common form is the typical form, and atypical form is only seen in about 2–3% of patients with hemifacial spasm. The incidence of hemifacial spasm is approximately 0.8 per 100,000 persons.

This disorder occurs in both men and women, although it affects middle-aged or elderly women more frequently. Hemifacial spasm is much more common in some Asian populations. It may be caused by a facial nerve injury, a tumor, or it may have no apparent cause. Individuals with spasm on both sides of the face are very rare.

Sign & Symptoms

The first sign of hemifacial spasm is typically muscle movement in the patient's eyelid and around the eye. It can vary in intensity. The intermittent twitching of the eyelid, which can result in forced closure of the eye which gradually spreads to the muscles of the lower part of the face (Typical form- See Image). In atypical form the spasms start in the cheekbone area and spreads to the eyelid. Ultimately, all the muscles on that side are affected, nearly all the time. This sometimes causes the mouth to be pulled to the side. Experts have linked hemifacial spasm to facial nerve injury, Bell's palsy and tumors. Although the most frequent cause is a blood vessel pressing on the facial nerve at the spot where it leaves the patient's brain stem, sometimes there is no known cause. When the affected individual is younger than 40, doctors suspect an underlying cause such as multiple sclerosis.

Treatment

Mild cases of hemifacial spasm may be managed with sedation or carbamazepine (an anticonvulsant drug). Microsurgical decompression and botulinum toxin injections are the current main treatments used for hemifacial spasm.

Botulinum Toxin

Botulinum toxin is highly effective in the treatment of hemifacial spasm. It has a success rate equal to that of surgery, but repeated injections may be required every 3 to 6 months. The injections are administered as an outpatient or office procedure. Whilst side effects occur, these are never permanent. Repeated injections over the years remain highly effective. Whilst the toxin is expensive, the cost of even prolonged courses of injections compares favourably with the cost of surgery. Patients with HFS should be offered a number of treatment options. Very mild cases or those who are reluctant to have surgery or Botulinum toxin injections can be offered medical treatment, sometimes as a temporary measure. In young and fit patients microsurgical decompression and Botulinum injections should be discussed as alternative procedures. In the majority of cases, and especially in the elderly and the unfit, Botulinum toxin injection is the treatment of first choice. Imaging procedures should be done in all unusual cases of hemifacial spasm and when surgery is contemplated. Patients with hemifacial spasm were shown to have decreased sweating after botulinum toxin injections. This was first observed in 1993 by Khalaf Bushara and David Park. This was the first demonstration of nonmuscular use of BTX-A. Bushara further showed the efficacy of botulinum toxin in treating hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). BTX-A was later approved for the treatment of excessive underarm sweating. This is technically known as severe primary axillary hyperhidrosis – excessive underarm sweating with an unknown cause which cannot be managed by topical agents.

Microvascular Decompression

Microvascular decompression appears to be the most popular surgical treatment at present. Microvascular decompression relieves pressure on the facial nerve, which is the cause of most hemifacial spasm cases. Excellent to good results are reported in 80% or more cases with a 10% recurrence rate. In the present series approximately 10% had previously failed surgery. Serious complications can follow microsurgical decompressive operations, even when performed by experienced surgeons. These include cerebellar haematoma or swelling, brain stem infarction (blood vessel of the brain stem blocked), cerebral infarction (ischemic stroke resulting from a disturbance in the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain), subdural haematoma and intracerebral infarction (blockage of blood flow to the brain). Death or permanent disability (hearing loss) can occur in 2% of patients of hemifacial spasm.

Dystonia

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder syndrome in which sustained or repetitive muscle contractions result in twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal fixed postures. The movements may resemble a tremor. Dystonia is often intensified or exacerbated by physical activity, and symptoms may progress into adjacent muscles.

There are multiple types of dystonias, and many diseases and conditions may cause dystonia.

Dystonia is classified by

  • Clinical characteristics such as age of onset, body distribution, nature of the symptoms, and associated features such as additional movement disorders or neurological symptoms, and
  • Cause (which includes changes or damage to the nervous system and inheritance).

Physicians use these classifications to guide diagnosis and treatment.

Types

  • Generalized
  • Focal
  • Segmental
  • Psychogenic
  • Acute dystonic reaction
  • Vegetative-vascular

Treatment

Medication

Different medications are tried in an effort to find a combination that is effective for a specific person. Not all people will respond well to the same medications. Medications that have had positive results in some include: diphenhydramine, benzatropine and atropine. anti-Parkinsons agents (such as ropinirole and bromocriptine), and muscle relaxants (such as diazepam).

Anticholinergics

Medications such as anticholinergics (benztropine), which act as inhibitors of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, may provide some relief. In the case of an acute dystonic reaction, diphenhydramine is sometimes used (though this drug is well known as an antihistamine, in this context it is being used primarily for its anticholinergic role).

Baclofen

A baclofen pump has been used to treat patients of all ages exhibiting muscle spasticity along with dystonia. The pump delivers baclofen via a catheter to the thecal space surrounding the spinal cord. The pump itself is placed in the abdomen. It can be refilled periodically by access through the skin. Baclofen can also be taken in tablet form.

Botulin toxin injection

Botulinum toxin injections into affected muscles have proved quite successful in providing some relief for around 3–6 months, depending on the kind of dystonia. Botox injections have the advantage of ready availability (the same form is used for cosmetic surgery) and the effects are not permanent. There is a risk of temporary paralysis of the muscles being injected or the leaking of the toxin into adjacent muscle groups, causing weakness or paralysis in them. The injections have to be repeated, as the effects wear off and around 15% of recipients will develop immunity to the toxin. There is a Type A and a Type B toxin approved for treatment of dystonia; often, those that develop resistance to Type A may be able to use Type B.

Muscle relaxants

Clonazepam, an anti-seizure medicine, is also sometimes prescribed. However, for most, their effects are limited and side-effects like mental confusion, sedation, mood swings, and short-term memory loss occur.

Parkinsonian drugs

Dopamine agonists: One type of dystonia, dopamine-responsive dystonia, can be completely treated with regular doses of L-DOPA in a form such as Syndopa Plus (carbidopa/levodopa). Although this does not remove the condition, it does alleviate the symptoms most of the time. (In contrast, dopamine antagonists can sometimes cause dystonia.)

Surgery

Surgery, such as the denervation of selected muscles, may also provide some relief; however, the destruction of nerves in the limbs or brain is not reversible and should be considered only in the most extreme cases. Recently, the procedure of deep brain stimulation (DBS) has proven successful in a number of cases of severe generalised dystonia. DBS as treatment for medication-refractory dystonia, on the other hand, may increase the risk of suicide in patients.