The diagnostic challenge of primary dystonia: evidence from misdiagnosis

Stefania Lalli, Alberto Albanese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Although the understanding of dystonia has improved in recent years, primary dystonia is still insufficiently recognized and patients may not receive the correct diagnosis, leading to transient or permanent misclassification of their symptoms. We reviewed cases of primary dystonia who were at first misdiagnosed and analyzed the reasons why the correct diagnosis was first missed and later retained. Primary dystonia is misdiagnosed mainly, but not exclusively, in favor of other movement disorders: Parkinson's disease (PD), essential tremor, myoclonus, tics, psychogenic movement disorder (PMD), and even headache or scoliosis. Accounts are more numerous for PD and PMD, where diagnostic tests, such as DAT scan and psychological assessment, support clinical orientation. The correct diagnosis was achieved in all cases following the recognition of inconsistencies in the first judgment and of distinctive clinical features of dystonia. These clues have been collected here and assembled into a diagnostic epitome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1619-1626
Number of pages8
JournalMovement Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • diagnosis
  • dystonia


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