We are the combination of four hospitals: the General Hospital, the Children’s Hospital, the Women’s Hospital and the Traumatology, Rehabilitation and Burns Hospital. We are part of the Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus: a world-leading health park where healthcare plays a crucial role.
Below we will list the departments and units that form part of Vall d’Hebron Hospital and the main diseases that we treat. We will also make recommendations based on advice backed up by scientific evidence that has been shown to be effective in guaranteeing well-being and quality of life.
We will guide you from your first visit to the centre, allowing you to find all the departments and make the most of our facilities. Whatever the reason for your visit, we will explain how to get about the hospital.
Dystonia is a neurological disorder characterised by involuntary muscle contractions that cause repetitive movements and tortuous and painful stances every time the patient makes a learned movement, such as walking or speaking.
Dystonia that is detected in childhood can progress rapidly and interfere in the development of the child's language and mobility, causing a physical disability that will affect them throughout life.
Dystonia is a very heterogeneous disease, which can occur for a variety of reasons:
Due to its incidence, dystonia is considered a rare disease.
Dystonia in childhood can occur in isolation or associated with other neurological and development problems. It can cause difficulty in everyday tasks such as walking, speaking, feeding oneself and taking care of personal hygiene.
When presented in isolation it is called primary dystonia and often has a genetic origin. Children who suffer from it do not usually have other health problems and their neurological development is normal. At first it manifests itself in actions such as walking, running, or writing and, later, can spread to other parts of the body and cause widespread dystonia.
Myoclonic dystonia is one of the most frequent hereditary forms of dystonia in childhood. It is characterised by the presence of sustained (dystonic) and abrupt (myoclonic) muscle contractions and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive features. The first symptoms appear in childhood and affect the lower limbs of children, who have difficulties walking, running and with sports. This disease also affects the social relationships of these children, who have problems speaking in public or eating and drinking with friends.
Dystonia can also be associated with other neurological problems, such as spasticity, ataxia, weakness, delay in neurological development and intellectual disability. In this case we call it secondary dystonia and it is necessary to rule out neurometabolic and neurodegenerative causes.
It affects children, adolescents, and adults of all ages.
First of all, patients are subjected to a series of clinical, metabolic, neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies to classify the type of dystonia, before carrying out genetic studies. In patients with myoclonic dystonia, first of all, a Sanger sequencing study is carried out to determine the gene that causes it, and in the other patients, a complete family exome sequencing(parents and patient) is carried out or the index case (patient) based on the DNA samples available.
Being a rare and very heterogeneous disease it is difficult to reach a correct diagnosis and treatment plan. It is important to distinguish hereditary dystonia from childhood cerebral palsy, caused by brain damage at birth, since its diagnosis has very important consequences for treating the disease later.
A diagnosis in time decreases the need to carry out more diagnostic tests, making it possible to form a prognosis and to advise families on avoiding future diseases. It also has a very positive psychosocial impact on the patient and family. And most importantly, an exact diagnosis of the cause that generates the dystonia makes it possible to guide the best possible treatment for each patient, in what we call personalised medicine.
Dystonia in childhood is progressive and debilitating, but can be prevented with early diagnosis and the use of specific therapies depending on the identified genetic defect.
Levodopa is the treatment of choice in dopa-sensitive dystonia, caused by a defect in the synthesis of dopamine. Botulinum toxin is used to control focal dystonia. In the case of widespread dystonia, different drugs are used to decrease tremors, muscle tone, and painful spasms. And in some cases of paroxysmal dystonia, which is characterised by brief and repetitive involuntary movements during the night, antiepileptic drugs are used.
An intrathecal baclofen pump administers liquid medication through a device that is placed under the skin, and is used to treat generalised secondary forms of dystonia. It reduces pain, decreases muscle tone and spasms. It is a treatment we call symptomatic and palliative, since it does not improve the motor function of the patient.
Deep brain stimulation or globus pallidus stimulation, two electrodes are placed in the globus pallidus using a stereotaxic technique, it is the treatment of choice in primary dystonia, especially if they are widespread and do not respond to conventional medication. In these cases children can recover the function of the area affected by dystonia and improve their quality of life. It can also be useful in patients with secondary forms of dystonia, although its effectiveness is less than in primary forms of dystonia.
Performing genetic testing is the best prevention to avoid having more children affected by this disease in the same family.
Associació de Lluita contra la Distonia Mioclònica a Espanya
Associació de Malalties Neurodegeneratives amb Acumulació Cerebral de Ferro
Associació GNAO Espanya
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the treatment of dystonia
Diagnostic testing for dystonia
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