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Myoclonus

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Houston Methodist’s specialized myoclonus experts offer leading-edge treatments and technologies to manage even the most disruptive symptoms. Our collaborative expertise can help restore your quality of life.

At Houston Methodist, our myoclonus specialists leverage the latest technologies to identify the cause of myoclonus and treatments to improve your motor function. As a national leader in neuromuscular disease research, we offer innovative therapies through clinical trials that are not widely available at other medical centers.

Myoclonus can develop in response to a nervous system disturbance, such as infection, traumatic brain or spinal cord injury, or chemical interactions. Neurological disorders such as epilepsy, stroke or brain tumors also can cause myoclonus. Our integrated team of neuromuscular experts will pinpoint underlying causes and curate a treatment plan to reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Diagnosing & Treating Myoclonus

How is myoclonus diagnosed?

Myoclonus is characterized by sudden, involuntary muscle jerking or twitching independently or in a series or pattern. Episodes may be triggered by external factors or particular movements. 

Our specialized myoclonus team will conduct a thorough analysis of your medical history, and we will perform physical and neurological exams to help determine the underlying cause of your symptoms. We will recommend imaging exams such as:

 

  • EEG to record electrical activity in your brain 
  • EMG to measure the electrical activity in the muscles and determine the pattern of the movements 
  • MRI to look for structural anomalies in your brain or spinal cord

 

Laboratory blood and urine tests can help us determine whether the cause of your symptoms might be a metabolic disorder, an autoimmune disease, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, or exposure to toxic chemicals. 

The results of your exams and tests will help us diagnose the type of myoclonus you have:

 

  • Positive – movements occur when a muscle contracts 
  • Negative – movements occur when a muscle relaxes

What treatment options are available?

Since myoclonus symptoms can be similar to symptoms of other underlying conditions, we will first diagnose the potential cause and use our findings to guide your treatment plan.

Positive myoclonus may respond to botulinum toxin (Botox®) injections to block the chemical messenger that triggers contractions in the affected muscle. If a spinal cord or brain tumor is found to be the cause, surgery to remove the lesion can reduce or eliminate symptoms.

For cases in which we cannot identify a cause, medications such as tranquilizers and anticonvulsants can help control myoclonic twitching.

I need advanced care or a second opinion.

If your current treatment is not providing adequate symptom relief — or if you need a second opinion — Houston Methodist’s integrated neurology team can recommend advanced treatments not widely available at other medical centers.

For example, we are evaluating the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation (DBS), a successful treatment for a range of neuromuscular conditions, to reduce myoclonus symptoms. Houston Methodist neurologists continuously refine current gold-standard therapies and design new techniques for movement disorder treatment.

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Houston Methodist is leading the way in new research to find innovative treatment options.

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