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Encephale. 1988 Sep;14 Spec No:263-8.

A summary of current knowledge of tardive dyskinesia.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA 02178.


Tardive dyskinesia (TD); abnormal involuntary movements appearing late in neuroleptic treatment) was described shortly after introduction of chlorpromazine and other antipsychotic agents in the 1950s. Consideration of this disorder as a common, progressive, and relentless problem of major public-health and medicolegal concern in the 1970s now appears to have been somewhat exaggerated. Several symptom patterns associated with neuroleptic treatment may or may not appropriately be lumped with the concept of TD (acute and withdrawal-emergent dyskinesias, dystonias, and akathisia, in particular); parkinsonism (with bradykinesia, rigidity, and tremor, including perioral tremor of the "rabbit syndrome") should be differentiated from TD, even though elements of both may occur together. Dyskinesias, more or less similar to TD, can occur in chronically ill neuropsychiatric patients not exposed to neuroleptics. Some may represent stereotyped behaviors of schizophrenia or undiagnosed neurological disorders, but a risk of spontaneous dyskinesias indistinguishable from TD averages about 5% (probably less in young patients). Mean prevalence rates for TD, corrected for spontaneous dyskinesias, average about 15-20% with higher risks at advancing ages. Incidence rates are less certain, but estimates average about 5% a year for at least several years in young patients, with higher rates within the first two years of treatment of elderly patients. Risk factors most clearly defined are advancing age, use of neuroleptic agents at relatively high daily doses for more than six months, and perhaps the diagnosis of a major affective disorder. Female gender and relatively high plasma levels of neuroleptic agents are less significant risk factors and other metabolic or neuroradiological indicators of risk remain unproved. The etiology of TD remains obscure.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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