Benign paroxysmal torticollis: phenotype, natural history, and quality of life

Kaitlin A. Greene, Vivien Lu, Marta San Luciano, William Qubty, Samantha L. Irwin, Barbara Grimes, Amy A. Gelfand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Benign paroxysmal torticollis (BPT) is characterized by attacks of head tilt associated with vomiting, irritability, and/or ataxia in early childhood. BPT is associated with migraine but risk factors are unknown. Impact on quality of life is also unknown. Methods: Parents/caregivers of children with ongoing or resolved BPT participated in telephone interviews (n = 73). Those with ongoing BPT completed the Infant Toddler Quality of Life questionnaire (ITQoL). Results: Median age of children at the time of interview was 2.9 years (range 0.25–23). BPT was ongoing in 52% (n = 38). Nineteen percent (n = 14) developed migraine (median age 9.25 years, range 2.5–23) and 63% (n = 46) developed another episodic syndrome associated with migraine. Proportion of patients who developed migraine was higher among those with certain migrainous symptoms during BPT attacks vs. those without: phonophobia (58 vs. 21%, p = 0.02), photophobia and phonophobia (55 vs. 23%, p = 0.05), and photophobia, phonophobia, and motion sensitivity (60 vs. 22%, p = 0.02). ITQoL results showed significant impact of BPT on quality of life. Conclusions: Children with BPT may develop migraine or other episodic syndromes associated with migraine. Presence of migrainous features during BPT episodes may increase likelihood of developing migraine. Though characterized as “benign,” BPT can significantly impact children and families. Impact: Benign paroxysmal torticollis (BPT) is a rare condition of early childhood characterized by episodes of head tilt associated with vomiting, irritability, ataxia, pallor, and/or malaise.This cohort study describes the phenotypic spectrum of BPT, variable treatment, natural history and association with migraine, and impact on development and quality of life.Children with BPT may go on to develop migraine or episodic syndromes that may be associated with migraine; presence of migrainous features during attacks may increase odds of developing migraine.BPT can have significant impact on quality of life, demonstrated by findings from the Infant Toddler Quality of Life questionnaire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1044-1051
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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