Diagnosis of Patients with Acute Dizziness

Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2021 Feb;39(1):181-201. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2020.09.011. Epub 2020 Nov 5.


Using an algorithmic approach to acutely dizzy patients, physicians can often confidently make a specific diagnosis that leads to correct treatment and should reduce the misdiagnosis of cerebrovascular events. Emergency clinicians should try to become familiar with an approach that exploits timing and triggers as well as some basic "rules" of nystagmus. The gait should always be tested in all patients who might be discharged. Computed tomographic scans are unreliable to exclude posterior circulation stroke presenting as dizziness, and early MRI (within the first 72 hours) also misses 10% to 20% of these cases.

Keywords: Diagnostic error; Dizziness; HINTS; Misdiagnoses; Nystagmus; Posterior circulation stroke; Vertigo; Vestibular neuritis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control
  • Dizziness / diagnosis*
  • Dizziness / etiology
  • Dizziness / physiopathology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans