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Published: August 11, 2023

Managing Pediatric Movement Disorders: Medications and Deep Brain Stimulation

Pediatric movement disorders, such as dystonia, can have a significant impact on a child's daily life. These disorders are characterized by sustained muscle contractions, resulting in twisting movements or abnormal postures. It is crucial to seek early diagnosis and treatment to improve the child's quality of life and prevent further complications. In this article, we will explore the various treatment approaches for pediatric movement disorders, including medications and deep brain stimulation.

It is important to note that the treatment approach for pediatric movement disorders should be individualized and may involve a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professional psychologists, neurologists, physiatrists, and social workers. Regular monitoring and follow-up appointments are crucial to assess the child's progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Understanding Pediatric Movement Disorders

Pediatric movement disorders, like dystonia, can have various causes, including genetic syndromes, brain damage, and metabolic issues. These disorders can affect mobility, coordination, speech, swallowing, and even psychological well-being. It is important to recognize the potential impact of these disorders on a child's daily life and seek appropriate intervention.

Exploring Treatment Approaches for Pediatric Movement Disorders

The Pediatric Movement Disorders Center at NJPNI specializes in diagnosing and treating pediatric movement disorders. Their experienced team offers comprehensive care and support to children with dystonia. Treatment options for dystonia include both symptomatic and surgical approaches. 

Symptomatic treatment approaches for pediatric movement disorders such as dystonia may include medication management and physical therapy. Medications such as muscle relaxants, anticholinergics, and dopamine agonists may be prescribed to help manage symptoms and improve motor control. Physical therapy, including exercises and stretching, can also be beneficial in improving muscle strength, flexibility, and coordination. Additionally, occupational therapy and speech therapy may be recommended to address any functional impairments related to the movement disorder. In some cases, surgical interventions such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be considered for children with severe and refractory dystonia. DBS involves the placement of electrodes in specific areas of the brain to help regulate abnormal electrical signals and improve motor function. The team at the Pediatric Movement Disorders Center at NJPNI will work closely with patients and their families to develop an individualized treatment plan based on their specific needs and goals.

  • Medication Strategies for Pediatric Movement Disorders

Symptomatic treatment options for dystonia include systemic or focal drug treatments. Medications such as anticholinergic, dopamine-blocking, depleting agents, baclofen, and benzodiazepines may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms. In cases of dopamine synthesis defects, L-dopa treatment can be effective. Additionally, botulinum toxin (Botox) injections can provide localized relief, and intrathecal baclofen therapy (ITB) through an implantable pump can help control disabling symptoms.

  • Deep Brain Stimulation: A Promising Intervention

For children with generalized dystonia, long-term electrical stimulation of the globus pallidum has shown effectiveness. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves the implantation of electrodes that deliver electrical impulses to specific brain areas involved in movement control. This surgical intervention can significantly improve dystonia symptoms and enhance the child's quality of life. The suitability of DBS as a treatment option depends on the specific case and severity of dystonia.

Supplementary Therapies for Enhancing Treatment:

In addition to medications and DBS, supplementary therapies can enhance the overall management of pediatric movement disorders. In addition to medications and deep brain stimulation, there are several other treatment approaches that can be used to manage pediatric movement disorders. 

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of pediatric movement disorders. Physical therapists are trained to assess a child's movement patterns and develop individualized treatment plans to improve their motor skills and muscle control. Through exercises and repetitive movements, physical therapy aims to enhance coordination, flexibility, and strength, ultimately improving the child's ability to perform daily activities.

Occupational therapy is another essential treatment approach for pediatric movement disorders. Occupational therapists help children develop the skills necessary for everyday tasks, such as dressing, feeding, and writing. They focus on improving the child's fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and sensory integration, which can be affected by movement disorders.

Speech therapy may also be beneficial for children with movement disorders that affect their ability to speak and communicate effectively. Speech therapists work with children to improve their speech production, language skills, and oral motor control. They may use techniques such as articulation exercises, breathing exercises, and language therapy to help the child overcome speech difficulties.

Recognizing the Right Time to Seek Medical Advice

Early detection of pediatric movement disorders is crucial for prompt intervention. Parents and caregivers should be aware of the potential signs and symptoms of these disorders and seek medical advice if they suspect any issues. Timely treatment can prevent further complications and improve the child's overall well-being. 

Some common signs and symptoms of pediatric movement disorders include abnormal muscle tone, delayed motor milestones, involuntary movements, tremors, difficulty with coordination, and abnormal posture. If a child exhibits any of these symptoms, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional who specializes in pediatric movement disorders. They will be able to evaluate the child's symptoms, conduct any necessary tests or assessments, and provide appropriate treatment recommendations. It is crucial not to ignore or dismiss these symptoms, as early intervention can greatly improve the child's quality of life and long-term outcomes.


Pediatric movement disorders, such as dystonia, can have a significant impact on a child's daily life. However, with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, the symptoms can be managed effectively. The Pediatric Movement Disorders Center at NJPNI offers specialized care and support for children with movement disorders. Treatment approaches include medications, deep brain stimulation, and supplementary therapies. By recognizing the signs, seeking early medical advice, and exploring various treatment options, parents and caregivers can provide the best possible care for children with pediatric movement disorders.

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