JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Bedside evaluation of dizzy patients

Young-Eun Huh, Ji-Soo Kim
Journal of Clinical Neurology 2013, 9 (4): 203-13
24285961
In recent decades there has been marked progress in the imaging and laboratory evaluation of dizzy patients. However, detailed history taking and comprehensive bedside neurotological evaluation remain crucial for a diagnosis of dizziness. Bedside neurotological evaluation should include examinations for ocular alignment, spontaneous and gaze-evoked nystagmus, the vestibulo-ocular reflex, saccades, smooth pursuit, and balance. In patients with acute spontaneous vertigo, negative head impulse test, direction-changing nystagmus, and skew deviation mostly indicate central vestibular disorders. In contrast, patients with unilateral peripheral deafferentation invariably have a positive head impulse test and mixed horizontal-torsional nystagmus beating away from the lesion side. Since suppression by visual fixation is the rule in peripheral nystagmus and is frequent even in central nystagmus, removal of visual fixation using Frenzel glasses is required for the proper evaluation of central as well as peripheral nystagmus. Head-shaking, cranial vibration, hyperventilation, pressure to the external auditory canal, and loud sounds may disclose underlying vestibular dysfunction by inducing nystagmus or modulating the spontaneous nystagmus. In patients with positional vertigo, the diagnosis can be made by determining patterns of the nystagmus induced during various positional maneuvers that include straight head hanging, the Dix-Hallpike maneuver, supine head roll, and head turning and bending while sitting. Abnormal smooth pursuit and saccades, and severe imbalance also indicate central pathologies. Physicians should be familiar with bedside neurotological examinations and be aware of the clinical implications of the findings when evaluating dizzy patients.

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