Moderate to severe periodic limb movement disorder in childhood and adolescence

Daniel L. Picchietti, Arthur S. Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study is to review clinical features of children with moderate to severe Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD). Because of our interest in both Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), many of our patients had one or both of these conditions. We did a retrospective review of 129 children and adolescents who were found to have Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep (PLMS) >5/hour of sleep. Sixty five had PLMS of 5-10/hour of sleep, 48 had PLMS of 10-25/hour of sleep and 16 had PLMS>25/hour of sleep. One hundred and seventeen of the original 129 had ADHD. Stimulant medication did not seem to play a role in the production of PLMS. In only 25 of the 129 cases did parents note the presence of PLMS before being specifically asked to look, and even after specific instructions to look, PLMS were not noted by the parents in 39 patients. The sub-group of 16 children and adolescents - 6 female, 10 male (average age 11.1 years - range 617 years) with moderate to severe PLMS >25/hour of sleep are described in more detail. Fifteen of the 16 patients had ADHD. Four of the 16 had RLS and 10 of 13 patients for whom a family history was available had a parent with RLS. Two of the 16 patients had their PLMS initially misdiagnosed as seizures. Sleep disturbance was present in all 16 patients and 7 of the 16 had daytime somnolence which resolved with dopaminergic medications. To our knowledge this is the first clinical series of moderate to severe PLMS in children and adolescents to be fully described in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-300
Number of pages4
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1999


  • Attention- deficit hyperactivity disorders
  • Dopaminergic medications
  • Growing pains
  • Migraine
  • Periodic limb movements in sleep
  • Polysomnography
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sleepwalking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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