Development of a new clinical tool to evaluate the balance abilities of children with bilateral vestibular loss: The Geneva Balance Test

Front Neurol. 2023 Mar 7:14:1085926. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2023.1085926. eCollection 2023.


Introduction: Vestibular deficits are considered rare in children, but the lack of systematic screening leads to underdiagnosis. It has been demonstrated that chronic vestibular dysfunction impacts the normal psychomotor development of children. Early identification is needed to allow for clinical management, ensuring better global development. For this purpose, our research group has developed the Geneva Balance Test (GBT), aiming to objectively quantify the balance capacity of children over a broad age range, to screen for bilateral vestibulopathy (BV), and to quantify the improvement of balance abilities in children.

Methods: To determine the capacity of the GBT to quantify the balance capacity of children with BV, we conducted an observational prospective study with three populations: 11 children with BV, and two age-matched control groups composed of (1) 15 healthy subjects without the vestibular or auditory disorder (HS) and (2) 11 pediatric cochlear implant recipients (CIs) without vestibular disorders. Results of the three populations have been compared in three different age sub- groups (3-5, 6-9, and ≥10 years), and with results of a short, modified version of the Bruininks-Oseretsky test of Motor proficiency Ed. 2 (mBOT-2).

Results: Statistical analyses demonstrated significant differences in the scores of the GBT between children aged 3-5, 6-9, and ≥10 years with BV and in both control populations (HS and CI). BV scores reflected poorer balance capacities at all ages. Children in the youngest CI sub-group (3-5 years) showed intermediate GBT scores but reached HS scores at 6-9 years, reflecting an improvement in their balance capacities. All the results of the GBT were significantly correlated with mBOT-2 results, although only a few BV completed the entire mBOT-2.

Discussion: In this study, the GBT allowed quantifying balance deficits in children with BV. The BOT-2 test is not validated for children <4.5 years of age, and the GBT seems to be better tolerated in all populations than the mBOT-2. Furthermore, mBOT-2 results saturated, reaching maximum values by 6-9 years whereas the GBT did not, suggesting that the GBT could be a useful tool for monitoring the development of balance capacities with age and could be used in the follow-up of children with severe vestibular disorders.

Keywords: GBT; balance; children; cochlear implant; test; vestibulopathy.

Grants and funding

The materials needed for the GBT were provided by the ORL Division of the Geneva University Hospitals and the costs were borne by the research funds of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.