January 7, 2010

The face of PSP

Tom Haywood, a senator from Texas, died in 2001 from progressive supranuclear palsy. Photographed with his family, it is easy to identify that who has PSP. The facial expression of PSP is homologous to the extreme neck rigidity: there is facial akinesia with varying degrees of tonic contraction of the facial muscles. This sometimes includes a perpetually furrowed brow. Drawing from Goetz, C.G. (1987) Charcot, The Clinician. New York: Raven Press. Private Collection of MDS Member, Christopher G. Goetz, MD, Chicago, IL. Taken from MDS website.

The appearance makes it difficult to gauge a patient's comfort and mood. It can also lead caretakers and medical staff to overestimate the degree of cognitive impairment. There is currently no effective treatment for PSP, neither symptomatic relief of the rigidity and gait difficulty nor medication to slow its progression. However, there are ongoing clinical trials, so identification of the disease (which can be confused with Parkinson's Disease) is important for recruiting patients for these studies.

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