Opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome

Opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome
Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome
Classification and external resources
DiseasesDB 31932

Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome (OMS) is a rare neurological disorder of unknown causes which appears to be the result of an autoimmune process involving the nervous system. It is an extremely rare condition, affecting as few as 1 in 10,000,000 people per year. It affects 2 to 3% of children with neuroblastoma.



OMS was first described by Marcel Kinsbourne in 1962. (The term 'Opsoclonus' was coined by Orzechowski in 1913, but it was classically described and associated with neuroblastoma by Kinsbourne). Other names for OMS include:

  • Opsoclonus-Myoclonus-Ataxia (OMA)
  • Paraneoplastic Opsoclonus-Myoclonus Ataxia (POMA)
  • Kinsbourne syndrome
  • Myoclonic Encephalopathy of Infants
  • Dancing Eyes-Dancing Feet syndrome
  • Dancing Eyes syndrome

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • opsoclonus (rapid, involuntary, multivectorial (horizontal and vertical), unpredictable, conjugate fast eye movements without intersaccadic [quick rotation of the eyes] intervals)
  • myoclonus (brief, involuntary twitching of a muscle or a group of muscles)
  • cerebellar ataxia, both truncal and appendicular
  • dysphasia (a language disorder in which there is an impairment of speech and of comprehension of speech, caused by brain damage)
  • mutism (a language disorder in which a person does not speak despite evidence of speech ability in the past, often part of a larger neurological or psychiatric disorder)
  • lethargy
  • irritability or malaise
  • drooling
  • strabismus (a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned with each other)
  • vomiting
  • sleep disturbances

About half of all OMS cases occur in association with neuroblastoma (a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system usually occurring in infants and children).


Because OMS is so rare and occurs at an average age of 19 months (6 to 36 months), a diagnosis can be slow. Some cases have been misdiagnosed as having been caused by a virus. After a diagnosis of OMS is made, an associated neuroblastoma is discovered in half of cases, with median delay of 3 months.


About half of all cases are associated with neuroblastoma and most of the others are suspected to be associated with a low-grade neuroblastoma that spontaneously regressed before detection. It is one of the few paraneoplastic (meaning 'indirectly caused by cancer') syndromes that occurs in both children and adults, although the mechanism of immune dysfunction underlying the adult syndrome is probably quite different.

It is hypothesized that a viral infection (perhaps St. Louis encephalitis, Epstein-Barr, Coxsackie B, or enterovirus) causes the remaining cases, though a direct connection has not been proven.

OMS is not generally considered an infectious disease. OMS is not passed on genetically...

Disease course and clinical subtypes

In most cases OMS starts with an acute flare-up of physical symptoms within days or weeks, but some less obvious symptoms such as irritability and malaise may begin weeks or months earlier.


Currently there are no clinically established laboratory investigations available to predict prognosis or therapeutic response.

Tumors in children who develop OMA tend to be more mature, showing favorable histology and absence of n-myc oncogene amplification than similar tumors in children without symptoms of OMA (Cooper et al., 2003). Involvement of local lymph nodes is common, but these children rarely have distant metastases and their prognosis, in terms of direct morbidity and mortality effects from the tumor, is excellent (Gesundheit et al., 2004). The three-year survival rate for children with non-metastatic neuroblastoma and OMA was 100% according to Children’s Cancer Group data (gathered from 675 patients diagnosed between 1980 to 1994); three-year survival in comparable patients with OMA was 77% (Rudnick et al., 2001). Although the symptoms of OMA are typically steroid-responsive and recovery from acute symptoms of OMA can be quite good, children often suffer lifelong neurologic sequelae that impair motor, cognitive, language, and behavioral development (Dale, 2003; Mezey and Harris, 2002).

Most children will experience a relapsing form of OMA, though a minority will have a monophasic course and may be more likely to recover without residual deficits (Mitchell et al., 2005). Viral infection may play a role in the reactivation of disease in some patients who had previously experienced remission, possibly by expanding the memory B cell population (Armstrong et al., 2005). Studies have generally asserted that 70-80% of children with OMA will have long-term neurologic, cognitive, behavioral, developmental, and academic impairment. Since neurologic and developmental difficulties have not been reported as a consequence of neuroblastoma or its treatment, it is thought that these are exclusively due to the immune mechanism underlying OMA (Hayward et al., 2001).

One study (Medical and Pediatric Oncology 36:612-622,2001, see below) came to the conclusion that: Patients with OMA and neuroblastoma have excellent survival but a high risk of neurologic sequelae. Favourable disease stage correlates with a higher risk for development of neurologic sequelae. The role of anti-neuronal antibodies in late sequelae of OMS needs further clarification.

Another study (Neuroepidemiologic Trends in 105 US Cases of Pediatric Opsoclonus-Myoclonus Elizabeth D. Tate, Michael R. Pranzatelli, Tyler Allison, Steven Verhurst, Springfield, IL states that: Residual behavioral, language, and cognitive problems occurred in the majority.


There is no known definitive cure for OMS. However, several drugs have proven to be effective in its treatment.

Some of medication used to treat the symptoms are:

  • Other medications are used to treat symptoms without influencing the nature of the disease (symptomatic treatment):
    • Trazodone can be useful against irritability and sleep problems
  • Additional treatment options include plasmapheresis ("washing the blood", showing similarities to dialysis) for severe, steroid-unresponsive relapses.

A more detailed summary of current treatment options can be found at http://www.omsusa.org/pranzatelli-medications.htm.

The following medications should probably be avoided:


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts and supports research on various movement disorders, including opsoclonus myoclonus. These studies are focused on finding ways to prevent, treat, and cure these disorders, as well as increasing knowledge about them. [1]


  • Armstrong MB. Robertson PL. Castle VP. Delayed, recurrent opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome responding to plasmapheresis. Pediatric Neurology. 33(5): 365-7, 2005 Nov.
  • Cooper R. Khakoo Y. Matthay KK. Lukens JN. Seeger RC. Stram DO. Gerbing RB. Nakagawa A. Shimada H. Opsoclonus-myoclonus-ataxia syndrome in neuroblastoma: histopathologic features-a report from the Children's Cancer Group. Medical & Pediatric Oncology. 36(6): 623-9, 2001 Jun.
  • Dale RC. Childhood opsoclonus myoclonus. Lancet Neurology. 2(5): 270, 2003 May.
  • Gesundheit B. Smith CR. Gerstle JT. Weitzman SS. Chan HS. Ataxia and secretory diarrhea: two unusual paraneoplastic syndromes occurring concurrently in the same patient with ganglioneuroblastoma. Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. 26(9): 549-52, 2004 Sep.
  • Hayward K. Jeremy RJ. Jenkins S. Barkovich AJ. Gultekin SH. Kramer J. Crittenden M. Matthay KK. Long-term neurobehavioral outcomes in children with neuroblastoma and opsoclonus-myoclonus-ataxia syndrome: relationship to MRI findings and anti-neuronal antibodies. Journal of Pediatrics. 139(4): 552-9, 2001 Oct.
  • Kinsbourne M. Myoclonic encephalopathy of infants. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, Psychiatry 25:271-276, 1962.
  • Mezey LE. Harris CM. Adaptive control of saccades in children with dancing eye syndrome. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 956: 449-52, 2002 Apr.
  • Mitchell WG. Davalos-Gonzalez Y. Brumm VL. Aller SK. Burger E. Turkel SB. Borchert MS. Hollar S. Padilla S. Opsoclonus-ataxia caused by childhood neuroblastoma: developmental and neurologic sequelae. Pediatrics. 109(1): 86-98, 2002 Jan.
  • Pranzatelli, M. R., Travelstead, A. L., Tate, E. D., Allison, T. J.,Moticka, E. J., Franz, D. N., Nigro, M. A., Parke, J. T., Stumpf, D. A., Verhulst, S. J. (2004). B- and T-cell markers in opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome: Immunophenotyping of CSF lymphocytes. Neurology 62: 1526-1532
  • Rudnick E. Khakoo Y. Antunes NL. Seeger RC. Brodeur GM. Shimada H. Gerbing RB. Stram DO. Matthay KK. Opsoclonus-myoclonus-ataxia syndrome in neuroblastoma: clinical outcome and antineuronal antibodies-a report from the Children's Cancer Group Study. Medical & Pediatric Oncology. 36(6): 612-22, 2001 Jun.
  • Longitudinal Neurodevelopmental Evaluation of Children With Opsoclonus-Ataxia. PEDIATRICS Vol. 116 No. 4 October 2005, pp. 901-907 (doi:10.1542/peds.2004-2377)
  • Rothenberg AB, Berdon WE, D'Angio GJ, Yamashiro DJ, Cowles RA (July 2009). "The association between neuroblastoma and opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome: a historical review". Pediatr Radiol 39 (7): 723–6. doi:10.1007/s00247-009-1282-x. PMID 19430769.
  1. ^ "NINDS Opsoclonus Myoclonus Information Page". National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/opsoclonus_myoclonus/opsoclonus_myoclonus.htm. Retrieved October 9 2011. 

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