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Laryngoscope. 2003 Oct;113(10):1746-50.

Objective vestibular tests as outcome measures in head injury patients.

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Vestibular Assessment and Rehabilitation, Department of Defense Spatial Orientation Center, Department of Otolaryngology, Naval Medical Center San Diego, San Diego, CA 92134-2200, USA.



Dynamic visual acuity testing (DVAT) and the Dizziness Handicap Index (DHI) can be used as reliable outcome measures in patients after head injury.


Balance disorders are a significant disability after mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). Assessing when individuals can perform activities of daily living, return to work, and begin to play sports can be difficult to determine. Objective outcome measures that correlate with successful life skills can be useful in managing these patients.


Fifty-three active duty individuals who suffered mild TBI underwent weekly DVAT testing and were administered a weekly DHI. Results in this group were compared with 46 control subjects who had not experienced TBI. In addition, weekly scores were compared with the patient's functional level, time to return to work, and time to perform all job related activities.


Individuals with TBI showed an overall increase of 42% in DVAT function over the first 4 weeks of testing, whereas controls showed an 8% increase. Concurrently, individuals with TBI averaged a 18-point improvement in DHI function, whereas control subjects showed no significant change in this score. Improvement in DVAT and DHI function correlated closely at the 1-week time point. Improvement in the patient's cognitive function, ability to return to activities of daily living, and ability to return to work gradually improved continuously.


DVAT and the DHI can be used as reliable outcome measures in evaluating the progress of patients with balance disorders associated with TBI. These measures allow providers to make more reliable recommendations regarding such activities as returning to work.

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