Medication-Induced Dystonic Reactions Clinical Presentation

Updated: Jun 27, 2022
  • Author: J Michael Kowalski, DO; Chief Editor: David Vearrier, MD, MPH  more...
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Dystonic reactions most often occur shortly after initiation of drug treatment or an increase in drug dose; 50% occur within 48 hours of initiation of treatment, and 90% occur within 5 days. A literature review by Hawthorne and Caley found among published reports of extrapyramidal reactions associated with serotonergic antidepressant therapy—not only dyskinesia but also akathisia, dyskinesia, parkinsonism, and mixed extrapyramidal reactions—that the reactions typically developed within 30 days of either the start of treatment or a dosage increase. [19]

Risk factors for drug-induced dystonic reactions include a family history of dystonia, a recent history of cocaine or alcohol use, or treatment with a potent dopamine D2 receptor antagonist (eg, fluphenazine, haloperidol). [20, 21] Incecik et al report a case in which albendazole induced a dystonic reaction that cleared up with discontinuation of the drug. [18]

Obtain history from others if patient is not able to speak.

Obtain medication history, including new medications and/or dosage increases.


Physical Examination

Mental status is unaffected.  Vital signs are usually normal.

Physical examination findings may include any of the following:

  • Oculogyric crisis - fixed deviation of the eyes in one direction
  • Buccolingual crisis
  • Protrusion of tongue
  • Trismus
  • Forced jaw opening
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Facial grimacing
  • Torticollis, usually associated with oculogyric and buccolingual crisis
  • Opisthotonic crisis
  • Lordosis or scoliosis
  • Tortipelvic crisis - Typically involves hip, pelvis, and abdominal wall muscles, causes difficulty with ambulation

The remaining physical examination findings are normal.