British Neurotoxin Network 2013 meeting, Keble college, Oxford

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 The 3rd British Neurotoxin Network annual meeting was hold in Oxford last week; 74 Botulinum toxin injectors gathered for all over UK in the superb location of Keble college. The program covered both practical and scientific aspects of botulinum toxin and dystonia.

 I gave a pre dinner talk on facial expression of emotions, looking on how the concepts have evolved from the 19th century with Charles Bells ‘s anatomical dissection of the facial muscles, to the 21st century with the influence of facial Botox injections on our expression of emotions.The collaboration of Duchenne de Boulogne with his neurophysiology study and Charles Darwin on expression of emotions in man and animals contributes to the present understanding of the universality of expressions and the recognition of basic emotions on a face, which was confirmed by Paul Ekman, an American psychologist.The Botox has been used as a research tool in the 21-st century to understand the relation between emotion and facial expression. Repressing the expression of emotions by too much cosmetic Botox or by neurological conditions such as facial palsy could disturb in return our ability to perceive emotions.

image      Duchenne de Boulogne, 1862

 imageCharles Darwin, 1872

The following morning was dedicated on reviewing the techniques and indications of the treatment of drooling by Ms Helen Witherow, maxillo-facial surgeon in London, the treatment of jaw dystonia by myself and the comparison of 2 techniques of injection: either electromyographic guided or ultra sound guided injection by Dr Sabine Klepsch , neurophysiologist in Bristol. Ms Catharina Pearce, medical student from Cardiff presented the results of a national survey on the use of Botulinum toxin in pregnant women.

In the afternoon the lectures were focusing on new concepts in dystonia and in particular the attempt of defining a new endophenotype (heritable clinical markers) for adult onset focal dystonia by Dr Sean O’riordan from Dublin and Dr Richard Grunewald from Sheffield.

 Outside the Botulinum toxin treatment, Mr Alex Green, neurosurgeon in Oxford, explored the effect of Deep Brain Surgery on dystonia and Mr Richmond Stace physiotherapist in London, the basis for retraining of cervical dystonia.

A video session, where colleagues were presenting video of dystonic patients with unexpected outcome, was animated and the opportunity again to share our individual approach to treatment.

The meeting was also a great opportunity for the secretary Mr Bells to update the UK maps of the service using botulinum toxin for treating neurological conditions. it’s accessible to anybody who is looking for a specialist centre to be treated for dystonia in particular.

 Dr Marie-Helene Marion, chair of the British Neurotoxin Network

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Living with dystonia

Dr Marie-Helene Marion (neurologist), Mrs Linda Baker (secretary of the Kent group) and Ms Angie Brown (Dystonia Society representative)

Dr M-H Marion, neurologist, specialised in the treatment of dystonia, explains how dystonia is a source of disability, distress, anxiety and despair and what can be done to help.

Mr Dave Ward, Dr Marie-Helene Marion and Mrs Linda Baker (Kent dystonia society group)

 

 

Living with dystonia

Last Saturday I attended the Kent Dystonia society group meeting in Maidstone.  As the attendees had different types of focal dystonia, I chose to speak about living with dystonia in general, and how dystonia is a source of disability, distress, anxiety and despair and what can be done to help.

1-Dystonia is source of disability, related to the fact that the dystonic spasms are brought up by action and interfere with daily life activities. As soon as the patient with blepharospasm tries to watch TV or drives, his eyes close; the patient with jaw spasms has major difficulties chewing; the patients with neck dystonia, difficulties when walking, and looking in front of him; the patients with writer’s cramp when writing and the spasmodic dysphonia when speaking.

2-Dystonia is source of distress as the diagnosis of dystonia is often delayed.

The awareness of doctors is low for dystonia as it is a rare condition, but it is not the only reason to explain the difficulty for the diagnosis. The presentation is often disconcerting, with the presence of a “geste antagoniste” (for example, touching with one finger the cheek can control severe neck spasms) or a sensory trick (a gum kept in the mouth alleviates jaw spasms), the occurrence on specific tasks, the diversity of the symptoms depending of the site of the dystonia, and the existence of a stressful event prior to the onset of the symptoms. The natural history also is often disconcerting, by its capricious fluctuations with remission and worsening without clear reason.

3- Dystonia is source of anxiety as the patient try to understand what’s going to happen in the future. The patient has difficulties to understand the natural history of the diseasethe spontaneous remissionsthe dystonic stormsthe risk of spread and to know what are the right expectations from the treatment.Doesthe treatment influence the course of the disease? What I should do in my daily life to get better?

4- Dystonia is source of despair as getting the right treatment is often an obstacle course.  In particular it can be challenging to find a specialist in dystonia and a Botulinum toxin service, which perform EMG guided injections into deep muscles, like the jaw muscles, the vocal cords or the forearm muscles. Do I need to see a neurologist, an ENT specialist, an ophthalmologist for the Botox injections??

The diversity of the response to treatment is also frustrating and the Botox injections have a trial and error process before finding the right dose for each individual. The patient needs to understand the therapeutic strategy, such as the role of the drugs, of the Botox injections, of the surgery and of the self-healing process (relaxation, physical exercises).

 Can we help dystonic patients to face all these challenges? 

One of the main answer for me is that the patient needs to become actor of his treatment.

Clear information has to be available for the patient: Every patient with focal dystonia in a way is unique, in the type of spasms and in the response to treatment. The patient needs to be well informed.  A better knowledge of the expected benefit and of the possible side effects from the patient will help the doctor to adjust the dosages of the anticholinergic drugs and of the Botulinum toxin.

The level of anxiety will decrease, as the patient will be able to anticipate and influence the progression of the dystonia by physical exercises, and by adjusting daily life activities to his ability.

 

What is available now in UK?

 1-The Dystonia Society UK www.dystonia.org.uk  has used the modern technology to reach a large population. Google advertising, new website, forum discussion, page on Facebook (Dystonia society UK), Twitter @dystonia society.. very soon there will be no more excuses to not know the word dystonia!!

2-Myself, as a neurologist specialised in dystonia, have developed this blog, www.infodystonia.com, to share my experience in treating dystonic patients over the last 25 years. For the healthcare profession, I have founded the British Neurotoxin Network (BNN) www.neurotoxinnetwork.org to gather all the clinicians involved in the Botox treatment of dystonia in UK for sharing information, techniques and new developments. The British Neurotoxin Network  (BNN) website, also hosts UK service maps www.neurotoxinnetwork.org/botox-treatment-centres.php to localise easily by the patients or the doctors where is the most appropriate centre for treatment.

I am also organising workshops and master class to share knowledge and skills with my colleagues who want to be involved in the care of dystonia.

3-The patients also are working hard to go forward in the best care for dystonia in organizing local support groups, like the Kent group under the umbrella of the Dystonia Society. The list of all these groups in UK are available on the Dystonia society website.

Thank you to Linda Baker and Dave Ward to organize this very well attended and stimulating meeting at Maidstone.

When meeting dystonic patients, it come to my mind  that the British Motto: “Be calm and carry on” is what most of the patients have courageously chosen when living with dystonia.