Background: Dizziness in general practice is very common, especially in elderly patients. The empirical evidence for diagnostic tests in the evaluation of dizziness is scarce. Aim of our study was to determine which set of diagnostic tests should be part of a diagnostic protocol for evaluating dizziness in elderly patients in general practice.
Methods: We conducted a Delphi procedure with a panel of 16 national and international experts of all relevant medical specialities in the field of dizziness. A selection of 36 diagnostic tests, based on a systematic review and practice guidelines, was presented to the panel. Each test was described extensively, and data on test characteristics and methodological quality (assessed with the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies, QUADAS) were presented. The threshold for in- or exclusion of a diagnostic test was set at an agreement of 70%.
Results: During three rounds 21 diagnostic tests were selected, concerning patient history (4 items), physical examination (11 items), and additional tests (6 items). Five tests were excluded, although they are recommended by existing practice guidelines on dizziness. Two tests were included, although several practice guidelines question their diagnostic value. Two more tests were included that have never been recommended by practice guidelines on dizziness.
Conclusion: In this study we successfully combined empirical evidence with expert opinion for the development of a set of diagnostic tests for evaluating dizziness in elderly patients. This comprehensive set of tests will be evaluated in a cross-sectional diagnostic study.