Vestibular "PREHAB"

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 May;1164:257-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.03778.x.


A sudden unilateral loss or impairment of vestibular function causes vertigo, dizziness, and impaired postural function. In most occasions, everyday activities supported or not by vestibular rehabilitation programs will promote a compensation and the symptoms subside. As the compensatory process requires sensory input, matching performed motor activity, both motor learning of exercises and matching to sensory input are required. If there is a simultaneous cerebellar lesion caused by the tumor or the surgery of the posterior cranial fossa, there may be a risk of a combined vestibulocerebellar lesion, with reduced compensatory abilities and with prolonged or sometimes permanent disability. On the other hand, a slow gradual loss of unilateral function occurring as the subject continues well-learned everyday activities may go without any prominent symptoms. A pretreatment plan was therefore implemented before planned vestibular lesions, that is, "PREHAB." This was first done in subjects undergoing gentamicin treatment for morbus Ménière. Subjects would perform vestibular exercises for 14 days before the first gentamicin installation, and then continue doing so until free of symptoms. Most subjects would only experience slight dizziness while losing vestibular function. The approach--which is reported here--was then expanded to patients with pontine-angle tumors requiring surgery, but with remaining vestibular function to ease postoperative symptoms and reduce risk of combined cerebellovestibular lesions. Twelve patients were treated with PREHAB and had gentamicin installations transtympanically. In all cases there was a caloric loss, loss of VOR in head impulse tests, and impaired subjective vertical and horizontal. Spontaneous, positional nystagmus, subjective symptoms, and postural function were normalized before surgery and postoperative recovery was swift. Pretreatment training with vestibular exercises continued during the successive loss of vestibular function during gentamicin treatment, and pre-op gentamicin ablation of vestibular function offers a possibility to reduce malaise and speed up recovery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Vestibular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Vestibular Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*