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Eur J Emerg Med. 1995 Dec;2(4):201-11.

Dizziness and vertigo in a department of emergency medicine.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Palermo, Policlinico Giaccone, Italy.


Dizziness is a common and vexing diagnostic problem in emergency departments. The term is rather undefinite and often misused, but can in practice be classified into four categories: fainting, disequilibrium, vertigo and miscellaneous syndromes. Vertigo is the most common category of dizziness. Classification of vertigo can be based either on chronological criteria (acute, recurrent or chronic vertigo) or on topographical criteria (peripheral or central vertigo). Physicians working in emergency departments must be able to rapidly identify patients with potentially serious forms of vertigo, which could cause death or disability, and patients with mild conditions, that can be effectively treated. Previous studies and the experience of the authors have shown that reliable diagnostic hypotheses can be generated by taking a proper clinical history (focused on the onset and duration of the disease, the circumstances causing the vertigo and associated otological or neurological symptoms) and performing an accurate physical examination (evaluation of neurological defects and spontaneous or provoked nystagmus), supplemented by few laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures. Therapy of vertigo in emergency settings is mainly symptomatic and based on sedation and use of vestibulosuppressant drugs (antihistamines, phenothiazines).

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