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Movement Disorders

More than 30 different diseases, affecting almost 40 million Americans, are identified as neurological movement disorders. These disorders, which include Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, myokymia, and restless leg syndrome, range from mild to severe, are usually chronic, sometimes progressive, and seldom curable.

Although many movement disorders are not life threatening, they can significantly impair patients’ ability to function well and independently. Depression and other mental problems are often associated with movement disorders.

At WVU, patients with movement disorders receive treatment aimed at improving quality of life. Our neurologists who specialize in movement disorders work together with experts from all related fields including neurosurgery, neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry, physical and occupational therapy, and otolaryngology to help patients regain optimal motor control of their bodies.

WVU neurologists perform the initial assessment of patients who present with difficulties related to muscle movement, and, in some cases, may be the only specialists that patients need to see. When surgical intervention is indicated, patients are referred to WVU’s staff of skilled neurosurgeons, who work closely with our neurologists to develop appropriate treatment plans.

Most patients can find significant relief with modern treatments, including medications, surgery, injections, physical therapy, and implantable devices.

Movement disorders originate deep in the brain. They affect both children and adults. The symptoms vary widely, making diagnosis sometimes difficult. Causes are often unknown but may include genetic and environmental factors, injury to the brain such as stroke, the side effects of medications, and others.

Types of Movement Disorders

There are two basic types of movement disorders:

  • Those characterized by excessive muscular movements and contractions, called hyperkinetic.
  • And those associated with muscle stiffness, rigidity, or slowness of movement, called hypokinetic.

Hypokinetic Disorders

  • Bradykinesia
  • Rigidity
  • Postural Disturbances
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Parkinsonian Syndromes
  • Multiple System Atrophies
  • Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  • Frontotemporal Dementias with Parkinsonism
  • Corticobasal Ganglionic Degeneration

Hyperkinetic Disorders

  • Dystonia
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep
  • Tics
  • Blepharospasm
  • Tremor
  • Tourette’s
  • Ataxia
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Myoclonus
  • Wilson Disease
  • Chorea
  • Dyskinesia
  • Paroxysmal Dyskinesia
  • Ballism
  • Hemifacial Spasm

The Movement Disorders Team has extensive experience with the full range of these disorders.

Team Approach

WVU Medicine takes a team approach to movement disorders to obtain accurate diagnoses and implement the most appropriate treatments. The team has a wide range of expertise and experience in delivering every mode of advanced treatment. Some patients will need to see just one physician on the team; others may see several. A great advantage of a team approach is that the physicians can pool their knowledge and the benefit of their years of medical experience to collectively address each patient’s problem.

A neurologist who specializes in movement disorders makes the initial assessment and in many cases will be the only specialist a patient needs to see.

In severe cases of Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, or dystonia that have not responded well to other approaches, a neurosurgeon may target the part of the brain responsible for the movement disorder for deep brain stimulation using implantable devices.

The role of the neuropsychologist is to assess the patient’s cognitive function. This is a crucial step in determining whether deep brain stimulation is indicated in a patient with Parkinson’s disease and whether appropriate treatment of a dementia should be initiated.

The role of the neuropsychiatrist is to determine whether a patients is suffering from depression or psychosis, which are common problems in patients with Parkinson’s disease. He will also help with the medical management of depression or psychosis.

The Movement Disorders Team also calls on the expertise of physical and occupational therapists, otolaryngologists (for patients with speaking and swallowing problems), and other specialists as needed.

The goal of treatment is to enable patients to regain optimal motor control of their bodies and to improve their quality of life.

Dr. Ali Rezai, executive chair of the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, lays out his bold, new vision for neuroscience at WVU. Joining Dr. Rezai are WVU President Gorden Gee, Albert Wright, president and chief executive officer of the West Virginia University Health System, and Clay Marsh, MD, vice president and executive dean for Health Science at WVU.

Research drives patient care at any large academic medical center. As stroke treatment has dramatically evolved in the past decade, WVU Medicine’s neurointerventionists have emerged as national leaders in their relatively new field. Here, Ansaar Rai, MD, WVU Medicine Radiology vice chair of clinical operations, discusses the past and present of stroke treatment.

Neurosurgeons treat their patients through the use of a delicate, targeted procedure; the best neurosurgeons are skilled at several. WVU Medicine neurosurgeon Robert A. Marsh, MD, PhD, says his best approach is unique to each patient, and considers wishes as well as needs.

WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute