Conference Coverage

Movement disorders in children warrant screening evaluations



– Movement disorders should be a factor in screening children receiving pharmacotherapy, Jagan K. Chilakamarri, MD, said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Dr. Jagan Chilakamarri

“I started seeing a very, very complex group of pediatric patients in my office,” said Dr. Chilakamarri, medical director at the Atlanta Psychiatric Institute, and codirector of the Movement Disorders Program at Emory University, Atlanta. “I decided I needed to coordinate with a neurologist and sort out what was happening.”

Dr. Chilakamarri suspects that the advent of new drug therapies and polytherapy is leading to a range of movement effects, especially in young patients prescribed multiple agents.

Many psychiatrists may not be comfortable with screening or diagnosing movement disorders, preferring instead to refer a patient to a neurologist. That’s understandable, but the neurologist may not have the psychotropic drug history in mind when assessing a patient. If a drug or drug combination is responsible for a movement disorder, it befits the psychiatrist to address it, he said.

“I want psychiatrists to be more familiar with how to do a basic movement disorder assessment, and how to understand these movements in the context of the patient, whether they’re drug induced or related to their own disorder, or something comorbid that we are not able to understand – how to measure them, how to understand them, and when to send them to the appropriate referral so that these patients are being well addressed. Some may not be addressed by a neurologist; maybe the patient should go to an endocrinologist because of a thyroid problem,” said Dr. Chilakamarri.

The best way to gain that understanding and familiarity, aside from reviewing the potential side effects of psychotropic medications, is to partner with a neurologist who can impart a better understanding of how movement disorders present.

“Whenever we see these odd or strange movements, we basically see if we can send the patient to a neurologist. I have no problem with that, but what I’m trying to say is, if we can be a little bit more aware, a little bit more understanding of these things, we can reduce some of those events,” said Dr. Chilakamarri.

He disclosed no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Commonly occurring movement disorders in children, AACAP 2018.

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