Observation of vestibular asymmetry in a majority of patients over 50 years with fall-related wrist fractures

Acta Otolaryngol. 2001 Jun;121(4):481-5.


Previously [The abstract has been shortened somewhat, and the headings removed, in order to conform to journal style], we have observed vestibular asymmetry in about one-third of healthy senior citizens and in about two-thirds of subjects with previous hip fractures and no other significant ailments. Wrist fractures are considered a harbinger of hip fractures. If vestibular asymmetry is correlated with falls and fractures among the elderly then it should also be reflected among subjects with wrist fractures. Sixty-six consecutive patients (mean age 67.8 years) who had sustained a fall-related wrist fracture during a 10-month period were included in the study. The frequency of head shake nystagmus among the patients was compared to that found among 49 healthy senior citizens (mean age 74.9 years). Nystagmus after head shaking, indicating asymmetric vestibular function, was found in 50 participants (76%) (p <0.001). Thirty-eight of these were graded with distinct or prominent nystagmus responses. Sixty percent of the subjects with horizontal nystagmus had a wrist fracture coinciding with the slow phase of nystagmus. Twenty-three subjects reported 30 previous fall-related fractures during the previous 10 years. Subjects with nystagmus after head shaking sustained 26 of these fractures. The frequency of signs of vestibular asymmetry was significantly higher (p < 0.001) among the subjects than among healthy senior citizens. These findings suggest that an asymmetric vestibular function could be an epidemiologically important contributory factor to falls and wrist fractures among the elderly population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Electronystagmography
  • Female
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / complications
  • Tremor / physiopathology
  • Vestibular Diseases / complications*
  • Vestibular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Vestibular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Vestibular Function Tests
  • Wrist Injuries / complications*
  • Wrist Injuries / epidemiology