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Acta Otolaryngol. 2005 Aug;125(8):852-7.

Search-coil head-thrust and caloric tests in Ménière's disease.

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Department of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21287, USA.



Our findings suggest that canal function is substantially preserved in subjects with active vertigo attacks as a result of Ménière's disease (MD). In these subjects, the head-thrust test (HTT) may not be as sensitive to canal dysfunction as traditional caloric testing. MD may differentially affect the low-frequency sensitivity of the canals.


Caloric tests have traditionally been used to characterize semicircular canal function in vestibular disorders, including MD. The quantitative HTT provides an objective measurement of semicircular canal function in the frequency and velocity ranges of normal head movements. The aim of this study was to compare the findings of caloric and HTTs in subjects with unilateral MD.


The study population consisted of 38 candidates for gentamicin treatment due to a high frequency of vertiginous attacks (25 males, 13 females; mean age 52.9 years; range 30-70 years). The duration of symptoms was 1-30 years (mean 5.3 years). Horizontal canal function was characterized with bithermal aqueous caloric tests and recordings of the angular vestibulo-ocular reflexes (aVORs) using the scleral search-coil technique during HTTs. The main outcomes were unilateral weakness (UW) on caloric testing and aVOR gain asymmetry (GA) during HTTs. A caloric response asymmetry of >20% was considered to be indicative of pathologic UW. A difference in GA during HTTs of >5.8% was considered significant.


Twenty subjects (52.6%) showed abnormal results on one or both tests. Pathologic UW was present in 16 subjects (42.1%). During HTTs, 11 subjects (28.9%) showed pathologic GA. Seven subjects (18.4%) showed abnormal results on both tests. A significant correlation was found between UW and GA. However, pathologic GA during HTTs in subjects with unilateral MD was less frequent and the values smaller than those published for vestibular neuritis patients. Two subjects with unilateral MD had 100% UW, but none had >30% asymmetry on HTTs.

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