Orthostatic Tremor: A Spectrum of Fast and Slow Frequencies or Distinct Entities?

  • Heather B. Rigby
  • Matthew H. Rigby
  • John N. Caviness

Abstract

Background: Orthostatic tremor (OT) is defined by the presence of a high-frequency (13–18 Hz) tremor of the legs upon standing associated with a feeling of unsteadiness. However, some patients have discharge frequencies of <13 Hz, so-called “slow OT”. The aim of this study was to characterize patients with unsteadiness upon standing found to have <13 Hz tremor discharges on neurophysiologic testing.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed on all subjects with a diagnosis of OT who were referred to the Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ, between 1999 and 2013 for confirmation using neurophysiology.

Results: Fourteen of 28 subjects (50%) had OT discharges of <13 Hz, of whom eight had frequencies of <10 Hz and six had frequencies of 10–13 Hz. Lower frequency discharges tended to have a broader spectral peak, greater variability in discharge duration, and lower inter-muscular coherence. Subjects with <13 Hz OT had shorter mean disease duration at time of neurophysiology testing (2.00 years in <10 Hz group, 7.96 years 10–13 Hz group, and 11.43 years >13 Hz; p = 0.002). The proportion of subjects who experienced gait unsteadiness (85.7% vs. 66.6% vs. 21.4%; p = 0.016), falls (37.5% vs. 50% vs. 0%; p = 0.010), and had abnormal gait on examination (71.4% vs. 66.0% vs. 14.3%; p = 0.017) was greater in those with low and intermediate frequencies.

Discussion: Slow tremor electromyography frequencies (<13 Hz) may characterize a substantial proportion of patients labeled as OT. These subjects may have greater gait involvement and higher likelihood of falls leading to earlier presentation to subspecialty care.