Objective: To assess vestibular function in a large group of vestibular schwannoma patients so that we could determine whether simple vestibular exercises speed vestibular dysfunction recovery after tumor removal surgery.
Study design: A prospective investigation of the vestibular dysfunction experienced by patients in the first 12 weeks after surgery.
Setting: Vestibular investigation unit at a tertiary referral institution.
Patients: Sixty-five patients with identified vestibular schwannoma referred for preoperative vestibular investigations. Thirty-two men and 33 women, with a mean age 51 years (range, 24-77 yr).
Interventions: There were 27 control patients, 30 exercise patients, and 8 patients that had balance physiotherapy. Exercise patients began simple vestibulo-ocular reflex gaze stabilization exercises 3 days after surgery.
Main outcome measures: Postoperative vestibular function testing was performed at 2 to 3, 6 to 7, and 10 to 12 weeks after surgery. Objective measurements of vestibular compensation status were as follows: spontaneous nystagmus and sinusoidal harmonic acceleration asymmetry and gain values. Dizziness Handicap Inventory questionnaires were used to assess subjective perceptions.
Results: The main findings were reduced dispersion in vestibulo-ocular reflex asymmetry at 2 to 3 weeks, reduced mean in asymmetry at 6 to 7 weeks, less dizziness/imbalance according to the Dizziness Handicap Inventory questionnaire, and that preoperative caloric tests did not predict postoperative severity of vestibular systems.
Conclusion: This large study provided unique evidence that a program of simple vestibular exercises and education can speed the rate of compensation after vestibular schwannoma surgery.