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Baby Girls Often Misdiagnosed with Movement Disorder

In many cases, harmless infantile masturbation is the real cause, experts say

MONDAY, Dec. 5, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Too many infant girls are being mistakenly tested for a rare movement disorder after being spotted moving in an unusual or contorted way, according to a report in the December issue of Pediatrics.

In most cases, the girls are engaging in infantile masturbation -- a common and harmless practice, the researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong studied a dozen cases of young girls who were referred to pediatric movement disorder clinics between 1997 and 2002 for evaluation of "paroxysmal dystonic posturing." The disorder is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that result in abnormal movements and positions.

Many of the girls underwent invasive testing and were put on medication before neurologists determined that their movements were normal muscle contractions that accompany infantile masturbation.

"Masturbation is a normal human behavior. It's not harmful to anybody," study author Dr. Jonathan W. Mink, chief of child neurology at the center, said in a prepared statement.

"But these children have had invasive procedures and have been treated with medication because their doctors either hadn't witnessed the movements or didn't recognize the behavior," Mink said.

He recommended that doctors ask parents to videotape any suspected episodes of paroxysmal dystonic posturing. Viewing the tapes may help doctors avoid performing unnecessary invasive and expensive tests on children.

More information

The Virtual Pediatric Hospital has more about toddlers and sexual behavior.

SOURCE: University of Rochester Medical Center, news release, Dec 5, 2005
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