After nearly 27 years as the Department Head of Rehabilitation Medicine, and 38 years as faculty, Dennis Dykstra, MD, PhD, is gearing up for phased retirement beginning in 2019.

Dr. Dykstra began his faculty career at the University of Minnesota, Medical School, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine (formerly the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation) in 1981. Where he became Department Head in 1991.

A two-time Young Investigator Award winner from the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Education and Research Foundation, Dr. Dykstra expanded his research interests to include participation and leadership in numerous research projects involving the novel uses of botulinum neurotoxins in his tenure. Over the years, he translated his research interests into a vibrant clinical practice utilizing botulinum neurotoxins to manage patients with dystonia, spasticity, chronic migraine, sialorrhea, and numerous other painful conditions.

After spending a significant amount of time studying the mechanisms of action of botulinum toxin (Botox), Dr. Dykstra suspected the effects of this medication could be revolutionary in his practice. In the mid-1980’s he was given the opportunity to inject his first patient with Botox in the management of lower extremity spasticity. Botox injections provided this patient with a significant reduction in lower extremity tone, which ultimately translated into improvement in his ability to ambulate. These results inspired Dr. Dykstra to continue exploring all the ways Botox could help improve function amongst his patients.

By the late 1980’s, Dr. Dykstra had built his clinical practice into a half-day clinic, once per week, utilizing Botox in the management of abnormal muscle tone. This treatment offered considerable advantages to the oral anti-spasmodic medications available at that time. Patients were pleased with this new treatment option, as it allowed for treating only the limb or body segment affected by spasticity or dystonia, while avoiding the unwanted side-effects of oral medications.

Dr. Dykstra quickly identified the need for a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, and further expanded his practice to include a physical therapist, Tanya Baxter, PT, and rehabilitation nurse, Lorie DesLauriers, RN. Under the guidance and support of this team approach, they developed a reputation for innovative, quality, and personalized care with superior outcomes. As a result, collaboration with other physicians increased and the botulinum toxin clinic began to expand exponentially.

The reputation of Dr. Dykstra continued to spread around the state, throughout the Mid-West, and eventually the country. He has received many referrals over the years from physicians for patients who have failed initial treatments and then have gone on to benefit from his expertise. The team's reputation has found a following among dystonia support group members and “Dr. D.,” as he is known in clinic, has patients who travel from northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and North Dakota every 10-14 weeks to have him perform their injection procedures. “Snowbird” patients fly home to Minneapolis from Florida and Arizona each winter to continue to work with Dr. Dykstra. Some have travelled from Illinois, Indiana, the East Coast, and as far away as Alaska and Canada to be evaluated and treated by Dr. Dykstra and his team. 

While his clinical expertise has grown through the years, Dr. Dykstra's professional reputation has also expanded. He and his team have participated in a number of pharmaceutical research studies to expand their understanding and expertise in the use of four different botulinum toxins:  Botox, Myobloc, Dysport, and Xeomin. Dr. Dykstra is considered a “thought leader” nationally, and internationally, in the clinical application, and use, of botulinum toxins. In addition, he has been a frequent presenter at national, and international, professional conferences surrounding the topic of botulinum toxins.

Dr. Dysktra has explored many novel uses of these neurotoxins. He was the first to utilize Botox for treatment of spastic bladder. Although he has passed this expertise onto the urologists and no longer assists with these procedures, he was instrumental in bringing this treatment to patients struggling with bladder spasms.

Treatment of patients with migraine headache using Botox was another innovative treatment pioneered by Dr. Dykstra.  Botox is now FDA-approved for treatment of migraine headache and has made a substantial improvement in patient's lives; minimizing or eliminating trips to the emergency room, limiting days lost from work, decreasing use of oral and injectable headache medications, and improving overall quality of life. Patients have told our team that starting treatment with Botox has literally “saved their lives.”

Additionally, Dr. Dykstra has treated patients with post brain tumor resection head and scalp pain, tinnitus, tardive dyskinesia, and neuropathic pain.  

It is difficult to describe the breadth of expertise that Dr. Dykstra and his team have accumulated over the course of 30 years of clinical practice. Over the years, Dr. Dykstra's PM&R Neurotoxin Clinic has grown to 7 half-day clinics per week – an astounding clinical work-load for a department head. The team currently manages 500 patients with a historical total of 2,000 plus patients evaluated and treated over the past 20 years. Some patients have been with Dr. Dykstra for nearly 30 years!