Practitioner review: Treatments for Tourette syndrome in children and young people: a systematic review

Whittington, Craig and Pennant, Mary and Kendall, Tim and Glazebrook, Cris and Trayner, Penny and Groom, Madeleine J. and Hedderly, Tammy and Heyman, Isobel and Jackson, Georgina M. and Murphy, Tara and Rickards, Hugh and Robertson, Mary and Stern, Jeremy and Hollis, Chris (2016) Practitioner review: Treatments for Tourette syndrome in children and young people: a systematic review. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry . ISSN 0021-9630

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Tourette syndrome (TS) and chronic tic disorder (CTD) affect 1–2% of children and young people, but the most effective treatment is unclear. To establish the current evidence base, we conducted a systematic review of interventions for children and young people.


Databases were searched from inception to 1 October 2014 for placebo-controlled trials of pharmacological, behavioural, physical or alternative interventions for tics in children and young people with TS or CTD. Certainty in the evidence was assessed with the GRADE approach.


Forty trials were included [pharmacological (32), behavioural (5), physical (2), dietary (1)]. For tics/global score there was evidence favouring the intervention from four trials of a2-adrenergic receptor agonists [clonidine and guanfacine, standardised mean difference (SMD) = -0.71; 95% CI -1.03, -0.40; N = 164] and two trials of habit reversal training (HRT)/comprehensive behavioural intervention (CBIT) (SMD = -0.64; 95% CI -0.99, -0.29; N = 133). Certainty in the effect estimates was moderate. A post hoc analysis combining oral clonidine/guanfacine trials with a clonidine patch trial continued to demonstrate benefit (SMD = -0.54; 95% CI -0.92, -0.16), but statistical heterogeneity was high. Evidence from four trials suggested that antipsychotic drugs improved tic scores (SMD = -0.74; 95% CI -1.08, -0.40; N = 76), but certainty in the effect estimate was low. The evidence for other interventions was categorised as low or very low quality, or showed no conclusive benefit.


When medication is considered appropriate for the treatment of tics, the balance of clinical benefits to harm favours a2-adrenergic receptor agonists (clonidine and guanfacine) as first-line agents. Antipsychotics are likely to be useful but carry the risk of harm and so should be reserved for when a2-adrenergic receptor agonists are either ineffective or poorly tolerated. There is evidence that HRT/CBIT is effective, but there is no evidence for HRT/CBIT alone relative to combining medication and HRT/CBIT. There is currently no evidence to suggest that the physical and dietary interventions reviewed are sufficiently effective and safe to be considered as treatments.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Whittington, C., Pennant, M., Kendall, T., Glazebrook, C., Trayner, P., Groom, M., Hedderly, T., Heyman, I., Jackson, G., Jackson, S., Murphy, T., Rickards, H., Robertson, M., Stern, J. and Hollis, C. (2016), Practitioner Review: Treatments for Tourette syndrome in children and young people – a systematic review. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12556, which has been published in final form at: This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving
Keywords: Paediatrics; Tourette syndrome; therapy; tics
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham UK Campus > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine > Division of Psychiatry
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Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 03 May 2016 15:55
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2016 17:46

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