The Effectiveness of Vestibular Rehabilitation Interventions in Treating Unilateral Peripheral Vestibular Disorders: A Systematic Review

Physiother Res Int. 2017 Jul;22(3). doi: 10.1002/pri.1635. Epub 2015 Jun 25.


Background and purpose: Various types of vestibular rehabilitation therapy are routinely used in clinical practice to treat unilateral peripheral vestibular hypofunction. The purpose of this systematic review was to compare the effectiveness of vestibular rehabilitation interventions (adaptation, substitution and habituation) in people with unilateral peripheral vestibular hypofunction, exclusionary of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo and Meniere's disease.

Methods: A search of the literature was conducted using PubMed, CINAHL and Scopus. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they were 1) a randomized controlled trial or randomized clinical trial; 2) written in English; 3) of participants with a unilateral, peripheral vestibular hypofunction; 4) of a conservative treatment approach only; and 5) with human subjects. Quality was assessed by two authors using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale. Effect size was calculated to determine the effect of treatment within each study group.

Results: Seven papers were selected for inclusion. Physiotherapy Evidence Database scores ranged from 2/10 to 7/10. Interventions within the selected studies included combinations of adaptation, habituation, substitution or substitution by itself. Calculated effect sizes, or significance values, revealed that all interventions demonstrated effectiveness. Two studies reported improvements on the dynamic gait index, and a large difference was seen between intervention groups of the two studies.

Discussion: Results suggest that vestibular therapy for unilateral peripheral vestibular hypofunction is effective. When considering all seven studies included in the review, it is difficult to determine the superiority of one intervention over another in treating unilateral peripheral vestibular hypofunction except when patient outcomes are captured by the dynamic gait index or dizziness handicap inventory. Many studies in this review demonstrate notable biases, suggesting that results should be used with caution. Future research should aim to use a common set of measures to capture outcomes. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: dizziness/rehabilitation; exercise therapy; head movements; vestibular diseases/rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Comparative Effectiveness Research
  • Dizziness / physiopathology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vestibular Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiopathology*