Transient Dystonia

Transient dystonia is a term which describes an abnormality of muscle tone often demonstrated in infants under one year of age who were born preterm. Pedersen and Marestad (1996) also associate the condition with infants who have low Apgar scores, bacterial infection, and those infants not given breast milk during the neonatal period. As the name transient dystonia implies, this is a condition that tends to be short lived and involves a significant increase in muscle tone, usually in the lower extremities. Infants with transient dystonia will show marked increased tone often by one or more of the following: maintaining a tip toe position in standing or when held in standing; demonstrating increased resistance to passive manipulation of the legs when in the supine position (e.g., legs held out stiffly); and/or tending to throw themselves back when independent or supported in a sitting position. When this condition is present in infants less than one year of age, it may mimic the condition of cerebral palsy. For this reason, the diagnosis of cerebral palsy is usually reserved in high-risk infants until after at least one year of age.


Bennet, F.C. (1999). Diagnosing cerebral palsy-the earlier the better. Contemporary Pediatrics 16(7): 121-129.

Sommerfelt, K., Pedersen, S., Ellertsen, B., & Markestad, T. (1996). Transient dystonia in non-handicapped low-birthweight infants and later neurodevelopment. Acta Paediatr. 85(12), 1445-9.