Objective: Millions of people suffer from traumatic brain injuries every year with common sequelae, including dizziness, disequilibrium, compromised vision, and gait abnormalities. Individuals suffering a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) or concussion may be prescribed bed rest, but for some, symptoms may persist and require different treatment options. The aim of this mini-systematic review was to synthesize the best available evidence regarding the effectiveness of vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) as a treatment option for adults with mTBIs.
Method: A systematic review of the literature was performed following the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. Search term concepts were VRT and mTBI. Records meeting the inclusion criteria were extracted from the following databases: PubMed and CINAHL. A manual search of reference lists identified additional studies. Inclusion criteria were (a) participants with mTBI/concussion characterized by dizziness, balance, and/or other vestibular symptoms; (b) VRT as the primary treatment; and (c) self-reported and/or performance-based outcome measures. Data were extracted using a standardized tool, and studies were critically appraised.
Results: Five studies were included in the systematic review: one randomized controlled trial, two retrospective chart reviews, one pre-/post-intervention study, and one case series. Four of the five studies found VRT to be effective at reducing postconcussion symptoms after head injury. Self-reported measures were included in all studies; performance-based measures were included in four out of five studies. None of the studies reported adverse effects of intervention.
Conclusions: Results suggest VRT is an effective treatment option for patients with persistent/lingering symptoms after concussion/mTBI, as demonstrated by self-reported and performance-based outcome measures. Results of this study emphasize the need for audiologists to be thoroughly familiar with VRT as an effective treatment for patients with persistent symptoms following mTBI.