[Neuro-otology: at the borders of ear and brain]

A Zwergal, V Kirsch, J Gerb, J Dlugaiczyk, S Becker-Bense, M Dieterich
Der Nervenarzt 2018, 89 (10): 1106-1114
Vertigo and dizziness are frequent chief complaints in clinical practice. Symptoms may originate from otological, neurological, medical and psychiatric etiologies, which poses an interdisciplinary challenge. Systematic analysis of case history and clinical examination generally allow classification into peripheral-, central- or non-vestibular disorders. The most important criteria for differentiation are the timeline, quality of symptoms, modulating factors and accompanying symptoms. As concerns the clinical examination, the following tests are relevant: head impulse test, test for spontaneous nystagmus, positional nystagmus, central ocular motor signs and the Romberg test. However, neuro-otological disorders with combined peripheral and central vestibular pathology do exist. Occlusion of the anterior inferior cerebellar artery results in ischemia of the labyrinth and cerebellum and therefore causes acute vestibular syndrome and unilateral hearing loss. Repetitive attacks of vertigo or dizziness which are accompanied by ear symptoms and headaches may be due to an overlap syndrome of Menière's disease and vestibular migraine. In this case patients often have to be treated with a dual prophylactic medication to control symptoms. In case of chronic dizziness and instability of gait a subsample of patients may suffer from CANVAS, which is a combination of bilateral vestibulopathy, a cerebellar syndrome and polyneuropathy. Chronic dizziness with signs of peripheral and central vestibular dysfunction can also originate from tumors of the cerebellopontine angle with compression of central structures. In conclusion, the diagnostic algorithm in the workup of patients with vertigo and dizziness should always include tests for peripheral and central vestibular and ocular motor function.

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