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Laryngoscope. 2013 Oct;123(10):2539-43. doi: 10.1002/lary.24087. Epub 2013 May 29.

Health care practice patterns for balance disorders in the elderly.

Author information

  • 1Department of Otolaryngology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary , Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A; Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School , Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES/HYPOTHESIS:

Characterize health care practice patterns for balance disorders in the elderly.

STUDY DESIGN:

Cross-sectional analysis of national health care survey.

METHODS:

Balance disorder cases in patients aged ≥65 years were extracted from the 2008 National Health Interview Survey. Records were analyzed for health professionals seen, diagnostic testing ordered, diagnoses given, and treatments offered. Relationships between diagnostic success, imaging studies, and specialty providers seen were compared.

RESULTS:

Among 7.02 ± 0.22 million elderly persons reporting a balance problem, 50.0% (3.44 ± 0.16 million) saw a health professional, and 35.8% saw ≥3 providers; 59.6% of elderly patients reported a diagnosed cause for the balance problem. The most common causes were medication side effects (11.3%), inner ear infection (11.0%), heart disease (8.6%), and loose ear crystals (7.9%). Imaging studies had been obtained in 56.7% (2.00 ± 0.11 million cases). Among 24.3% of patients receiving some form of treatment, 61.7% had been taking prescription medication, most commonly diuretic agents (36.5%), anxiolytic agents (25.1%), and meclizine (21.4%). Seeing an otolaryngologist or neurologist was associated with a higher but similar rate of diagnostic imaging studies (70.1%, P = .029 and 78.5%, P < .001). However, obtaining an imaging study was not associated with a diagnosed cause of the balance disorder (61.5% with imaging vs. 56.9% without, P = .265).

CONCLUSIONS:

Despite a high prevalence of balance problems in the elderly, a significant proportion do not come to a clear diagnosis. There is a noteworthy rate of prescription medication utilization in this population. Given an increasingly aging population, attention needs to be given to balance problems in the elderly to optimize diagnosis and health care utilization.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:

2b.

KEYWORDS:

Balance disorders; dizziness; elderly; geriatric; vertigo

PMID:
23720236
DOI:
10.1002/lary.24087
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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