ATHETOSIS , the medical term applied to certain slow, purposeless, deliberate movements of the hands and feet. The fingers are separately flexed and extended, abducted and adducted in an entirely irregular way. The hands as a whole are also moved, and the arms, toes and feet may be affected. The condition is usually due to some lesion of the brain which has caused hemiplegia, and is especially common in childhood. It is occasionally congenital (so called), and is then due to some injury of the brain during birth. It is more usually associated with hemiplegia, in which condition there is first of all complete voluntary immobility of the parts affected: but later, as there is a return of a certain amount of power over the limbs affected, the slow rhythmic movements of athetosis are first noticed. This never develops, however, where there is no recovery of voluntary power. Its distribution is thus nearly always hemiplegic, and it is often associated with more or less mental impairment. The movements may or may not continue during sleep. They cannot be arrested for more than a moment by will power, and are aggravated by voluntary movements. The prognosis is unsatisfactory, as the condition usually continues unchanged for years, though improvement occasionally occurs in slight cases, or even complete recovery.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)