Upper and lower limb spasticity (ULS, LLS) often occur following a stroke or in patients with other neurological disorders, leading to difficulties in mobility and daily living and decreased quality of life. Prior to the use of onabotulinumtoxinA, antispastic medications had limited efficacy and often caused sedation. Phenol injections were difficult for physicians to perform, painful, and led to tissue destruction. The success of onabotulinumtoxinA in treating cervical dystonia led to its use in spasticity. However, many challenges characterized the development of onabotulinumtoxinA for adult spasticity. The wide variability in the presentation of spasticity among patients rendered it difficult to determine which muscles to inject and how to measure improvement. Another challenge was the initial refusal of the Food and Drug Administration to accept the Ashworth Scale as a primary endpoint. Additional scales were designed to incorporate a goal-oriented, patient-centered approach that also accounted for the variability of spasticity presentations. Several randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of post-stroke spasticity of the elbow, wrist, and/or fingers showed significantly greater improvements in the modified Ashworth Scale and patient treatment goals and led to the approval of onabotulinumtoxinA for the treatment of ULS in adult patients. Lessons learned from the successful ULS trials were applied to design an LLS trial that led to approval for the latter indication. Additional observational trials mimicking real-world treatment have shown continued effectiveness and patient satisfaction. The use of onabotulinumtoxinA for spasticity has ushered in a more patient-centered treatment approach that has vastly improved patients' quality of life.
Esquenazi, Alberto; Jost, Wolfgang H.; Turkel, Catherine C.; Wein, Theodore; and Dimitrova, Rozalina, "Treatment of Adult Spasticity With Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA): Development, Insights, and Impact" (2023). Moss-Magee Rehabilitation Papers. Paper 7.
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