Skip to content

Botulinum toxin type A therapy for cervical dystonia

Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
Get full text


BACKGROUND: This is an update of a Cochrane Review first published in 2005. Cervical dystonia is the most common form of focal dystonia, and is a highly disabling movement disorder, characterised by involuntary, usually painful, head posturing. Currently, botulinum toxin type A (BtA) is considered the first line therapy for this condition. OBJECTIVES: To compare the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of BtA versus placebo, in people with cervical dystonia. SEARCH METHODS: We searched Cochrane Movement Disorders' Trials Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, reference lists of articles, and conference proceedings in July 2020. All elements of the search, with no language restrictions, were last run in July 2020. SELECTION CRITERIA: Double-blind, parallel, randomised, placebo-controlled trials (RCTs) of BtA versus placebo in adults with cervical dystonia. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently assessed records, selected included studies, extracted data using a paper pro forma, and evaluated the risk of bias. We resolved disagreements by consensus or by consulting a third review author. We performed meta-analyses using a random-effects model, for the comparison of BtA versus placebo, to estimate pooled effects and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (95% CI). We performed preplanned subgroup analyses according to BtA dose used, the BtA formulation used, and the use (or not) of guidance for BtA injections. The primary efficacy outcome was improvement in cervical dystonia-specific impairment. The primary safety outcome was the proportion of participants with any adverse event. MAIN RESULTS: We included nine RCTs, with moderate, overall risk of bias, that included 1144 participants with cervical dystonia. Seven studies excluded participants with poorer responses to BtA treatment, therefore, including an enriched population with a higher probability of benefiting from this therapy. Only one trial was independently funded. All RCTs evaluated the effect of a single BtA treatment session, using doses from 150 U to 500 U of onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox), 120 U to 240 U of incobotulinumtoxinA (Xeomin), and 250 U to 1000 U of abobotulinumtoxinA (Dysport). BtA resulted in a moderate to large improvement from the participant's baseline clinical status, assessed by the investigators, with a mean reduction of 8.09 points in the Toronto Western Spasmodic Torticollis Rating Scale (TWSTRS total score) at week four after injection (95% CI 6.22 to 9.96; I² = 0%) compared to placebo. This corresponded, on average, to a 18.4% improvement from baseline. The mean difference (MD) in TWSTRS pain subscore at week four was 2.11 (95% CI 1.38 to 2.83; I² = 0%) compared to placebo. Overall, both participants and clinicians reported an improvement of subjective clinical status. It was unclear if dropouts due to adverse events differed (risk ratio (RR) 2.51; 95% CI 0.42 to 14.94; I² = 0%) However, BtA treatment increased the risk of experiencing an adverse event (R) 1.23; 95% CI 1.05 to 1.43; I² = 28%). Neck weakness (14%; RR 3.40; 95% CI 1.19 to 9.71; I² = 15%), dysphagia (11%; RR 3.19; 95% CI 1.79 to 5.70; I² = 0%), and diffuse weakness or tiredness (8%; RR 1.80; 95% CI 1.10 to 2.95; I² = 0%) were the most common treatment-related adverse events. Treatment with BtA resulted in a decreased risk of dropouts. We have moderate certainty in the evidence across all of the aforementioned outcomes, with the exception of subjective assessment and tolerability, in which we have high confidence in the evidence. We found no evidence supporting the existence of a clear dose-response relationship between BtA and improvement in cervical dystonia-specific impairment, a destinction between BtA formulations, or a variation with use of EMG-guided injection for efficacy outcomes. Due to clinical heterogeneity, we did not pool health-related quality of life data, duration of clinical effect, or the development of secondary non-responsiveness. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: We are moderately certain in the evidence that a single BtA treatment session resulted in a clinically relevant reduction of cervical dystonia-specific impairment, and pain, and highly certain that it is well tolerated, compared with placebo. There is moderate-certainty evidence that people treated with BtA are at an increased risk of developing adverse events, most notably, dysphagia, neckweakness and diffuse weakness or tiredness. There are no data from RCTs evaluating the effectiveness and safety of repeated BtA injection cycles. There is no evidence from RCTs to allow us to draw definitive conclusions on the optimal treatment intervals and doses, the usefulness of guidance techniques for injection, the impact on quality of life, or the duration of treatment effect.




Rodrigues, F. B., Duarte, G. S., Marques, R. E., Castelão, M., Ferreira, J., Sampaio, C., … Costa, J. (2020). Botulinum toxin type A therapy for cervical dystonia. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 11, CD003633.

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free