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Poststroke restless legs syndrome and lesion location: Anatomical considerations


  • Potential conflict of interest: None reported.


Several case studies have reported on restless legs syndrome (RLS) associated with stroke. In this study, we investigated the prevalence and the lesion topography of poststroke RLS. There were 137 patients with ischemic stroke included in this study. The diagnosis of RLS was made 1 month after the index stroke using the criteria established by the International RLS Study Group. All patients enrolled underwent magnetic resonance imaging within 7 days of the onset of the stroke. The prevalence of stroke-related RLS was calculated, and the topography of the associated ischemic lesions was analyzed. Among 137 patients, 17 patients (12.4%) were diagnosed with RLS after a stroke. Stroke-related RLS was found in 10 out of 33 patients with a basal ganglia/corona radiata infarct (30.3%), 1 out of 8 patients with an internal capsular infarct (12.5%), and 1 out of 7 patients with a thalamic infarct (14.3%). In addition, one out of 54 with a cortical lesion with/without subcortical involvement (1.9%), and 4 out of 18 patients with a pontine lesion (22.2%) had RLS. The analysis of the lesions in the cortical and subcortical group showed only 1 patient in the cortical group had stroke-related RLS, whereas 16 in the subcortical group had stroke-related RLS. The results of this study suggest that lesions of the subcortical brain areas such as the pyramidal tract and the basal ganglia-brainstem axis, which are involved in motor functions and sleep-wake cycles, may lead to RLS symptoms in patients after an ischemic stroke. © 2008 Movement Disorder Society