CNS Drugs

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 165–174 | Cite as

Drug-Induced Pisa Syndrome (Pleurothotonus)

Epidemiology and Management
  • Toshihito Suzuki
  • Hisashi Matsuzaka
Therapy in Practice


Long-term administration of antipsychotics occasionally produces persistent dystonia of the trunk, a disorder known as Pisa syndrome (or pleurothotonus). The development of Pisa syndrome is most commonly associated with prolonged treatment with antipsychotics; however, it has also been reported, although less frequently, in patients who are receiving other medications (such as cholinesterase inhibitors and antiemetics), in those not receiving medication (idiopathic Pisa syndrome) and in those with neurodegenerative disorders.

Drug-induced Pisa syndrome predominantly develops in females and in older patients with organic brain changes. It sometimes occurs after the addition of another antipsychotic to an established regimen of antipsychotics or insidiously arises in antipsychotic-treated patients for no apparent reason. The condition generally disappears after antipsychotic drugs are discontinued. Although a pharmacological therapy for drug-induced Pisa syndrome has not been established, we have reported that anticholinergic drugs are effective in about 40% of patients who have episodes of Pisa syndrome with the remaining patients responding to the withdrawal or reduction of daily doses of antipsychotic drugs.

The characteristics of its development and prognosis indicate that druginduced Pisa syndrome consists of two types of dystonia. Some patients develop clinical features of acute dystonia, whereas others develop symptoms similar to tardive dystonia. Like that of tardive dystonia, Pisa syndrome responds better than tardive dyskinesia to a relatively high daily dose of an anticholinergic. However, the significant improvement caused by the withdrawal of antipsychotic drugs in Pisa syndrome differentiates it from tardive dystonia. Thus, Pisa syndrome including these features is considered to be an atypical type of tardive dystonia.

These clinical characteristics suggest that the underlying pathophysiology of drug-induced Pisa syndrome is complex. A dopaminergic-cholinergic imbalance, or serotonergic or noradrenergic dysfunction, may be implicated. Asymmetric brain functions or neural transmission may also be considered as underlying mechanisms of the development of Pisa syndrome that is resistant to anticholinergic drugs.

Idiopathic Pisa syndrome is characterised by an adult-onset, segmental truncal dystonia in patients with no previous exposure to antipsychotics. It occurs rarely but shows a complete resolution with high doses of anticholinergic drugs.


Clozapine Dystonia Antipsychotic Drug Tardive Dyskinesia Extrapyramidal Symptom 
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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Clinical MedicineUniversity of TsukubaTsukuba, IbarakiJapan
  2. 2.Mitsukaido Kosei HospitalMitsukaido, IbarakiJapan

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