Conference Coverage

Guideline issued for treating Tourette syndrome and chronic tics



– Approaches to managing tics in patients with Tourette syndrome or chronic tic disorders “should be individualized, and the choice should be the result of a collaborative decision among patient, caregiver, and clinician, during which the benefits and harms of individual treatments as well as the presence of comorbid disorders are considered,” according to Tamara Pringsheim, MD, lead author of a practice guideline published May 6, 2019, by the American Academy of Neurology, and her collaborators.

Tamara Pringsheim, MD, of the University of Calgary in Alberta

Dr. Tamara Pringsheim

The panel of nine physicians, two psychologists, and two patient representatives developed the recommendations based on a comprehensive systematic literature review. They concluded that treatments may decrease the frequency and severity of tics but rarely eliminate them.

The guideline was endorsed by the Child Neurology Society and the European Academy of Neurology and is the first such guideline for American neurologists, said Dr. Pringsheim of the University of Calgary (Alta.). Like recent Canadian and European guidelines, it strongly supports the Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) as a treatment option for tics.

After examining which medical, behavioral, and neurostimulation interventions, compared with placebo or other active interventions, improve tic severity and tic-related impairment in children and adults with Tourette syndrome or a chronic tic disorder, the guideline writers recommended that the evidence was strongest for CBIT as a first-line treatment, relative to other behavioral treatments and medications.

John Piacentini, PhD, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Dr. John Piacentini

If symptoms affect a patient’s daily life, doctors should consider CBIT, said guideline author John Piacentini, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. “This treatment combines habit-reversal training, which teaches patients how to control their urges to tic, with other behavioral strategies to reduce stress and other factors that often make tics worse.”

Patients typically see results from CBIT in 8-12 weeks. More CBIT providers are needed, however, to make the treatment readily available to all patients, he said.

The guideline panel members said that there was moderate confidence in the evidence for reduced tic severity for the following therapeutic approaches, compared with placebo: haloperidol, risperidone, aripiprazole (children only), tiapride (children only), clonidine, onabotulinumtoxinA injections, ningdong granule (as formulated by Zhao), (children only), and ling granule (children only). There was low or very low confidence in the evidence for all other therapies for reducing tic severity.

Comorbid conditions

Many people with tic disorders have neurodevelopmental or psychiatric conditions such as ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and mood and anxiety disorders. The guideline recommends that people with tics be evaluated for these conditions.

Alpha2-adrenergic agonists may improve symptoms of tic disorders and ADHD, the authors said. There was moderate confidence in the evidence for reduced tic severity for people with a comorbid diagnosis of ADHD with clonidine plus methylphenidate (children only) and methylphenidate alone (children only), compared with placebo.

Adults with severe Tourette syndrome who are resistant to medical and behavioral therapy may benefit from deep brain stimulation (DBS), the guideline states. There was moderate confidence in the evidence for reduced tic severity for DBS of the globus pallidus, compared with sham DBS, as an option for adults with severe tics who have failed CBIT and drugs. These patients first must be screened by a mental health professional and continue to be monitored throughout DBS treatment.

Adults with Tourette syndrome who self-treat their tics with cannabis in states where cannabis is legal should see a doctor who can monitor the use of cannabis for efficacy and adverse effects, the guideline says.


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