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Vestibular rehabilitation for unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction.

BACKGROUND: Unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction (UPVD) can occur as a result of disease, trauma or post-operatively. The dysfunction is characterized by complaints of dizziness, visual or gaze disturbances and balance impairment. Current management includes medication, physical manoeuvres and exercise regimes, the latter known collectively as vestibular rehabilitation (VR).

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effectiveness of vestibular rehabilitation in the adult, community dwelling population of people with symptomatic unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction.

SEARCH STRATEGY: The search included the Cochrane Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders Group Trials Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in The Cochrane Library Issue 1 2007, MEDLINE (1950 to 2007) and EMBASE (1974 to 2007). The date of the last search was March 2007.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised trials of adults living in the community, diagnosed with symptomatic unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction. Comparisons sought were: Vestibular rehabilitation versus control (placebo etc.). Vestibular rehabilitation versus other treatment (non-vestibular rehabilitation e.g. pharmacological). Vestibular rehabilitation versus another form of vestibular rehabilitation. Outcome measures that were considered included: frequency and severity of dizziness or visual disturbance; changes in balance impairment, function or quality of life; measure/s of physiological status with known functional correlation.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Both authors independently extracted data and assessed trials for quality.

MAIN RESULTS: Thirty-two trials were identified and eleven were excluded because of mixed/unclear vestibular pathology, leaving twenty-one trials in the review. Included studies addressed the effectiveness of vestibular rehabilitation against control/sham interventions, non-vestibular rehabilitation interventions or other forms of vestibular rehabilitation, by comparing the subjects in each group who had significant resolution of symptoms and/or improved function. Individual and pooled data showed a statistically significant effect in favour of the vestibular rehabilitation over control or no intervention. The exception to this was when movement based vestibular rehabilitation was compared to physical manoeuvres for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, where the latter was shown to be superior in cure rate in the short term. There were no reported adverse effects.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There is moderate to strong evidence that vestibular rehabilitation is a safe, effective management for unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction, based on a number of high quality randomised controlled trials. There is moderate evidence that vestibular rehabilitation provides a resolution of symptoms in the medium term. However there is evidence that for the specific diagnostic group of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, physical (repositioning) manoeuvres are more effective in the short term than exercise based vestibular rehabilitation. There is insufficient evidence to discriminate between differing forms of vestibular rehabilitation.

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