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Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2008 Apr;28(2):73-8.

Pseudo-spontaneous nystagmus: a new sign to diagnose the affected side in lateral semicircular canal benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.

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Unit of Audiology-Vestibology and Phoniatry, Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Madonna delle Grazie Hospital, Matera, Italy.


Early diagnosis of the affected side in Lateral Semicircular Canal Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo is important in effectively applying treatment manoeuvres. This study was performed to examine the frequency of a new clinical sign, pseudo-spontaneous nystagmus, in a large cohort of patients with Lateral Semicircular Canal Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, comparing its efficacy in the identification of the involved side with that of other diagnostic signs, seated supine positioning nystagmus, and the intensity of the nystagmus evoked by the head yaw test in the supine position. Overall, 293 patients affected by Lateral Semicircular Canal Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (197 geotropic and 96 apogeotropic forms) were examined. Pseudo-spontaneous nystagmus was observed in 222 patients (76%). After a very slow, repeated horizontal rotation of the head, in the seated position, this percentage increased to 96% (281 patients). The pseudo-spontaneous nystagmus and the seated supine positioning nystagmus always beat in the same direction and both were in accordance in identifying the affected side with the nystagmus evoked by the head yaw test. The differential diagnosis between spontaneous nystagmus and pseudo-spontaneous nystagmus is easily achieved with the head pitch test in the sitting position: the pseudo-spontaneous nystagmus disappears with the head bent forward 30 degrees (neutral position), it reverses its direction with the head bent 60 degrees forward, it returns visible bringing the head in axis with the body and increases its intensity extending the head about 30 degrees backwards. Pseudo-spontaneous nystagmus is an important sign for determining the affected ear in Lateral Semicircular Canal Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. Early identification of the affected side improves efficacy of treatment and compliance of patients.

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