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Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo: clinical characteristics of dizzy patients referred to a Falls and Syncope Unit

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Julia Newton


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Background: Dizziness is a common symptom in older people that affects quality of life and increases the risk of falls. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a common cause of dizziness that increases in prevalence with age, and is potentially curable. Aim: To compare patients with BPPV referred initially to a Falls and Syncope Unit (FSS group) with those initially referred to a Regional ENT/Balance Service (ENT group). Design: Retrospective case-note review. Methods: Medical notes, investigations and outcomes were reviewed for all patients. Results: Of 59 patients with BPPV confirmed by Dix-Hallpike test, 31 (53%) were initially referred to the FSS (2.6 patients per month, 71% females) and 28 (47%) were initially referred to ENT (4.7 patients per month, 86% females). Compared to those referred initially to ENT, FSS patients were significantly older (mean +/- SD 69 +/- 13 vs. 55.4 +/- 13 years, p = 0.0003) and had dizzy symptoms for longer before diagnosis (median (range) 12 (4-120) vs. 6 (1-36) months, p = 0.0273). FSS patients were more likely to have more than one type of dizziness (16% vs. 0%, p = 0.001), more likely to have cerebrovascular or cardiovascular co-morbidity (13% vs. 4%, p = 0.0152) and were taking significantly more medications (3.2 vs. 1.7; p = 0.0271). Cure rates on intervention were similar (83% FSS, 86% ENT). Discussion: BPPV is a potentially curable cause for dizziness in older people. Older people are frequently referred directly to Falls units, who will be seeing increasing numbers of patients with dizziness. A high index of suspicion allows early identification and treatment of this condition.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lawson J, Johnson I, Bamiou DE, Newton JL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: QJM: An International Journal of Medicine

Year: 2005

Volume: 98

Issue: 5

Pages: 357-364

ISSN (print): 1460-2725

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2393

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/qjmed/hci057


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