Treatment of objective and subjective benign paroxysmal positional vertigo

J Am Acad Audiol. Jul-Aug 2013;24(7):600-6. doi: 10.3766/jaaa.24.7.8.


Background: Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is the most common cause of vertigo in adults and is a result of otolithic particles or debris that become free floating within a semicircular canal or adhere to the cupula. Characteristics of BPPV include brief episodes of latent onset vertigo that occur with changes in head position, transient rotary nystagmus beating toward the dependent ear, and reversed nystagmus upon sitting up. Both the vertigo and nystagmus fatigue quickly while maintaining the same head position. The BPPV may be classified as objective or subjective. Objective BPPV presents all the aforementioned symptoms whereas subjective BPPV presents all the symptoms without nystagmus. The accepted method of treatment for objective BPPV is canalith repositioning maneuvers (CRM); however, CRM are not traditionally used as the method of treatment for cases of subjective BPPV.

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to determine if the subjective report of dizziness using the Dizziness Handicap Inventory (DHI) was different in patients with objective and subjective BPPV and to determine if the two groups showed similar improvements in perceived dizziness handicap following CRM treatment.

Research design: The present study utilized a retrospective, repeated measures design.

Study sample: Sixty-three adults with BPPV that were given the DHI both before and after CRM treatment.

Data collection and analysis: Pre and post DHI results were analyzed for participants with objective versus subjective BPPV. A five-question DHI subscale was also analyzed between the groups.

Results: A significant difference was noted between initial and posttreatment DHI scores for patients in both the subjective and objective groups when using the full-scale and subscale DHI. No significant difference was noted between groups for their initial or posttreatment DHI scores. The two groups also did not differ significantly in their initial or posttreatment DHI subscale scores.

Conclusions: The results of the study indicated that individuals with both objective and subjective BPPV demonstrated significant improvement in DHI scores following CRM treatment. Additionally, there was no difference in DHI improvement for the subjective versus objective group suggesting CRM are effective for both subjective BPPV and objective BPPV. This improvement in DHI scores was also noted in the five-question DHI subscale with no significant difference noted between groups. These findings combined with previous studies suggest the presence or absence of nystagmus during Dix-Hallpike maneuvers is not related to the effectiveness of treatment using CRM.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Dizziness / physiopathology
  • Dizziness / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / complications
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / diagnosis
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Positioning / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Semicircular Canals / pathology
  • Vertigo / complications
  • Vertigo / physiopathology*
  • Vertigo / therapy*
  • Young Adult