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Procedures for restoring vestibular disorders

Author(s): Walther, Leif Erik

Journal: GMS Current Topics in Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery
ISSN 1865-1011

Volume: 4;
Start page: Doc05;
Date: 2005;
Original page

Keywords: neurootology | vestibular disturbances | labyrinth | rehabilitation | therapy | oto-surgery | vestibular compensation

This paper will discuss therapeutic possibilities for disorders of the vestibular organs and the neurons involved, which confront ENT clinicians in everyday practice. Treatment of such disorders can be tackled either symptomatically or causally. The possible strategies for restoring the body's vestibular sense, visual function and co-ordination include medication, as well as physical and surgical procedures. Prophylactic or preventive measures are possible in some disorders which involve vertigo (bilateral vestibulopathy, kinetosis, height vertigo, vestibular disorders when diving (Tables 1 and 2). Glucocorticoid and training therapy encourage the compensation of unilateral vestibular loss. In the case of a bilateral vestibular loss, it is important to treat the underlying disease (e.g. Cogan's disease). Although balance training does improve the patient's sense of balance, it will not restore it completely.In the case of Meniere's disease, there are a number of medications available to either treat bouts or to act as a prophylactic (e.g. dimenhydrinate or betahistine). In addition, there are non-ablative (sacculotomy) as well as ablative surgical procedures (e.g. labyrinthectomy, neurectomy of the vestibular nerve). In everyday practice, it has become common to proceed with low risk therapies initially. The physical treatment of mild postural vertigo can be carried out quickly and easily in outpatients (repositioning or liberatory maneuvers). In very rare cases it may be necessary to carry out a semicircular canal occlusion. Isolated disturbances of the otolith function or an involvement of the otolith can be found in roughly 50% of labyrinth disturbances. A specific surgical procedure to selectively block the otolith organs is currently being studied. When an external perilymph fistula involving loss of perilymph is suspected, an exploratory tympanotomy involving also the round and oval window niches must be carried out. A traumatic rupture of the round window membrane can, for example, also be caused by an implosive inner ear barotrauma during the decompression phase of diving. Dehiscence of the anterior semicircular canal, a relatively rare disorder, can be treated conservatively (avoiding stimuli which cause dizziness), by non-ablative „resurfacing" or by „plugging" the semicircular canal. A perilymph fistula can cause a Tullio-phenomenon resulting from a traumatic dislocation or hypermobility of the stapes, which can be surgically corrected. Vestibular disorders can also result from otosurgical therapy. When balance disorders persist following stapedectomy it is necessary to carry out a revision operation in order to either exclude a perilymph fistula or shorten the piston. Surgically reducing the size of open mastoid cavities (using for example porous hydroxylapatite or cartilage) can result in a reduction of vertiginous symptoms while nursing or during exposure to ambient air. Vestibular disturbances can occur both before and after vestibular nerve surgery (acoustic neuroma). Initially, good vestibular compensation can be expected after surgically removing the acoustic neuroma. An aberrant regeneration of nerve fibers of the vestibulocochlear nerve has been suggested as a cause for secondary worsening. Episodes of vertigo can be caused by an irritation of the vestibular nerve (vascular loop). Neurovascular decompression is generally regarded as the best surgical therapy. In the elderly, vestibular disturbances can severely limit quality of life and are often aggravated by multiple comorbidities. Antivertiginous drugs (e.g. dimenhydrinate) in combination with movement training can significantly reduce symptoms. Administering antivertiginous drugs over varying periods of time (e.g. transdermal scopolamine application via patches) as well as kinetosis training can be used as both prophylactically and as a therapy for kinetosis. Exposure training should be used as a prophylactic for height vertigo.
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