Vestibular rehabilitation for unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Feb 16;(2):CD005397. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005397.pub3.


Background: This is an update of a Cochrane Review first published in The Cochrane Library in Issue 4, 2007.Unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction (UPVD) can occur as a result of disease, trauma or postoperatively. The dysfunction is characterised by complaints of dizziness, visual or gaze disturbances and balance impairment. Current management includes medication, physical manoeuvres and exercise regimes, the latter known collectively as vestibular rehabilitation (VR).

Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of vestibular rehabilitation in the adult, community-dwelling population of people with symptomatic unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction.

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders Group Trials Register; the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); PubMed; EMBASE; CINAHL; Web of Science; BIOSIS Previews; Cambridge Scientific Abstracts; ISRCTN and additional sources for published and unpublished trials. The most recent search was 1 July 2010, following a previous search in March 2007.

Selection criteria: Randomised trials of adults living in the community, diagnosed with symptomatic unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction. We sought comparisons of VR versus control (placebo etc.), other treatment (non-VR, e.g. pharmacological) or another form of VR. We considered the outcome measures of frequency and severity of dizziness or visual disturbance; changes in balance impairment, function or quality of life; and measure/s of physiological status with known functional correlation.

Data collection and analysis: Both authors independently extracted data and assessed trials for risk of bias.

Main results: We included 27 trials, involving 1668 participants, in the review. Trials addressed the effectiveness of VR against control/sham interventions, medical interventions or other forms of VR. Individual and pooled data showed a statistically significant effect in favour of VR over control or no intervention. The exception to this was when movement-based VR was compared to physical manoeuvres for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), where the latter was shown to be superior in cure rate in the short term. There were no reported adverse effects.

Authors' conclusions: There is moderate to strong evidence that VR is a safe, effective management for unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction, based on a number of high quality randomised controlled trials. There is moderate evidence that VR provides a resolution of symptoms and improvement in functioning in the medium term. However, there is evidence that for the specific diagnostic group of BPPV, physical (repositioning) manoeuvres are more effective in the short term than exercise-based vestibular rehabilitation; although a combination of the two is effective for longer-term functional recovery. There is insufficient evidence to discriminate between differing forms of VR.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dizziness / rehabilitation
  • Exercise Movement Techniques
  • Humans
  • Postural Balance
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sensation Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Vertigo / rehabilitation
  • Vestibular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Vestibular Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth* / physiopathology