Vertigo can be objective or subjective The illusion of movement can manifest in two ways. In objective vertigo, the patient perceives the environment moving as they are stationary. In subjective vertigo, the patients perceives that they are moving in a stationary environment. References Mukherjee A, Chatterjee SK, Chakravarty A. Vertigo and dizziness – a clinical approach. JAPI 2003;51:1095-101. Salvinelli F, Firrisi L, Casale M, et al. What is vertigo? Clin Ter 2003;154:341–8.
Vertigo is one of four types of dizziness Dizziness can be described as abnormal sensations relating to a person’s perception of their body in the environment (Drachman & Hart 1972, Sloane et al 2001). In their influential paper of 1972, Drachman and Hart described four different types of dizziness. These classifications of dizziness subtypes, listed below, are still used today. Vertigo – an illusion of movement typically characterized by feelings of rotation Presyncope – a feeling of impending faint Disequilibrium – a feeling of unsteadiness, particularly in the lower body, without sensations in the head. It is worse when standing or walking, and is alleviated by sitting down. Other subtypes – other feelings of dizziness not encompassed by the preceding definitions. Drachman and Hart described this type of dizziness as ‘ill-defined light-headedness’. People have since suggested that this category can include sensations of swimming or floating or feelings of dissociation. Patients falling into this category often have difficulty describing their symptoms. References Drachman DA, Hart CW. An approach to the dizzy patient. Neurology 1972;22:323–34 Sloane PD, Coeytaux RR, Beck RS, Dallara J. Dizziness: State of the Science. Ann Intern Med 2001;134:823–32.
Etiology of vertigo can be broadly classified into central and peripheral. Peripheral causes include all causes of labyrinthine dysfunction such as infection, BPPV, Meniere’s disease, trauma, ischemia, infarction, perilymph fistula, and drug toxicity. Central causes include all causes of central vestibular dysfunction such as physiological vertigo, demyelination as in multiple sclerosis, posterior fossa mass lesions, and vertebrobasilar insufficiency as in stroke.
Spatial orientation and posture is dependant on three sensory systems: the vestibular, the visual, and the somato-sensory systems. Vertigo results from a disturbance in any of these 3 systems. The most common cause of vertigo is disturbances in the vestibular system, which is made up of 3 semi-circular canals and 2 otolith organs. The semi-circular canals transduce angular acceleration and the otolith organs transduce linear acceleration and static gravitational forces. Endolymph movement, depending on the direction of flow and deflection of otoliths by gravity, either stimulates or inhibits neuronal output from the hair cells present in the semi-circular canals and otoliths. Nerve impulses are transmitted from the vestibular system to the vestibular nuclei in the brain stem and cerebellum through the 8th cranial nerve. From here connections are made to the oculomotor system, spinal cord, and cerebral cortex, which integrate the information to produce the perception of motion. Lesions anywhere along this pathway can result in vertigo.
Acetylcholine is an excitatory neurotransmitter in the central and peripheral pathways. Vertigo and motion sickness are often treated with anticholinergic drugs that inhibit the muscarinic receptors. Glutamate is the principal excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. It maintains the resting discharge of the central vestibular neurons and appears to modulate the synaptic transmission in the vestibulo-ocular reflex arc. GABA is usually inhibitory in the peripheral and central nervous system and is thought to be inhibitory for the commissures of the medial vestibular nucleus.
The most common complaint is that of dizziness or sensation of movement. This can be subjective, where the patient feels a false sense of movement, or objective, where the surroundings appear to move. Vertigo due to central causes are usually chronic and accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, abnormal eye movements, weakness, and unsteady gait. Vertigo of vestibular nerve origin is commonly associated with auditory symptoms such as tinnitus and hearing loss. Vertigo due to peripheral causes can last for a few minutes, days, or weeks and is usually recurrent.
Vertigo episodes are debilitating and are more than just a sensation of movement Vertigo episodes are characterised by feelings of movement, usually rotation , of varying intensity. The onset of these episodes can be sudden or gradual , and their duration is usually dependent on the underlying cause. Vertigo often results in confinement to bed, and is frequently accompanied by nausea, vomiting and anxiety . Nystagmus (involuntary movement of the eyeball) may also be present. References Baloh RW. Vertigo. Lancet 1998;352:1841–6. Mukherjee A, Chatterjee SK, Chakravarty A. Vertigo and dizziness – a clinical approach. JAPI 2003;51:1095-101. Salvinelli F, Firrisi L, Casale M, et al. What is vertigo? Clin Ter 2003;154:341–8.
Vertigo is a continuous burden Patients who suffer from vertigo episodes also report a number of symptoms and negative emotions between episodes . These include headaches, instability and general malaise . Because of the unpredictable nature of vertigo crises, patients may also be fearful of the onset of the next episode, which may lead to generalised anxiety. Together these symptoms, along with the usually chronic nature of vertigo, means that vertigo patients often report reduced quality of life. References Fielder H, Denholm SW, Lyons RA, Fielder CP. Measurement of health status in patients with vertigo. Clin Otolaryngol 1996;21:124–6. H ä gnebo C, Melin L, Larsen HC, Lindberg P, Lyttkens L, Scott B. The influence of vertigo, hearing impairment and tinnitus on the daily life of Meniere patients. Scand Audiol 1997;26:69–76. Lopez-Escamez JA, Lopez-Nevot A. Prevalence of headaches and medication use in patients with recurrent vertigo. Acta Otorrinolaringol Esp 2000;51:377–82. Mendel B, Bergenius J, Langius A. Dizziness symptom severity and impact on daily living as perceived by patients suffering from peripheral vestibular disorder. Clin Otolaryngol Allied Sci 1999;24:286–93. Monzani D, Casolari L, Guidetti G, Rigatelli M. Psychological distress and disability in patients with vertigo. J Psychosom Res 2001;50:319–23. Salvinelli F, Firrisi L, Casale M, et al. What is vertigo? Clin Ter 2003;154:341–8.
Vertigo can have a negative impact on quality of life Vertigo can be a severely incapacitating disease, with a significant impact on quality of life , as demonstrated in this study. Patients (n = 67) with vertigo, dizziness or giddiness were asked to complete the short form health survey (SF-36), which assesses eight quality of life parameters; completed questionnaires were returned by 42 patients. The scores were transformed into a scale of 0–100 with higher scores indicating better health. The results were compared with population norms (n = 517–532; the number of subjects differed for each parameter), weighted for groups of similar age and gender. This comparison showed that quality of life was significantly affected by vertigo . Women with vertigo rated seven of the eight dimensions lower than the population norm (p = 0.035). Individual analyses of each parameter showed that limitations in role due to physical problems and vitality were particularly affected (p < 0.05 vs population norm). Men with vertigo scored lower than the population norm on all eight parameters (p = 0.004). Again, particular problems were noted in terms of role limitations due to physical problems; social functioning was also adversely affected (p < 0.05 vs population norm). The SF-36 is also frequently used to assess quality of life in other disorders. While limitations are noted in comparing data from different studies, a preliminary inspection of the available data suggest that vertigo disrupts quality of life to a similar or greater extent than several other chronic diseases including cystic fibrosis (Gee et al 2002), diabetes (Ohsawa et al 2003), and allergic rhinitis (Bousquet et al 1994). References Bousquet J, Bullinger M, Fayol C, Marquis P, Valentin B, Burtin B. Assessment of quality of life in patients with perennial allergic rhinitis with the French version of the SF-36 Health Status Questionnaire. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1994;94:182–8. Fielder H, Denholm SW, Lyons RA, Fielder CP. Measurement of health status in patients with vertigo. Clin Otolaryngol 1996;21:124–6. Gee L, Abbott J, Conway SP, Etherington C, Webb AK. Validation of the SF-36 for the assessment of quality of life in adolescents and adults with cystic fibrosis. J Cyst Fibros 2002;1:137–45. Ohsawa I, Ishida T, Oshida Y, Yamanouchi K, Sato Y. Subjective health values of individuals with diabetes in Japan: comparison of utility values with the SF-36 scores. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2003;62:9–16.
Vertigo can be of central or peripheral origin Vertigo can result from a diverse range of aetiologies, originating centrally or peripherally . Central causes of vertigo involve structures within the central nervous system (cerebrum, cerebellum, brainstem or connecting white matter) that process information from the vestibular system and other areas involved in balance. Peripheral causes of vertigo involve dysfunction in areas that are not part of the central nervous system , for example, the inner ear. Central causes of vertigo are unusual (Hain & Uddin 2003); peripheral causes are more common. References Baloh RW. Vertigo. Lancet 1998;352:1841–6. Hain TC, Uddin M. Pharmacological Treatment of Vertigo. CNS Drugs 2003;17:85–100. Mukherjee A, Chatterjee SK, Chakravarty A. Vertigo and dizziness – a clinical approach. JAPI 2003;51:109–101. Puri V, Jones E. Childhood vertigo: a case report and review of the literature. J Ky Med Assoc 2001;99:316–21. Salvinelli F, Firrisi L, Casale M, et al. What is vertigo? Clin Ter 2003;154:341–8. Strupp M, Arbusow V. Acute vestibulopathy. Curr Opin Neurol 2001;14:11–20.
Vertigo of peripheral origin: causes Peripheral causes of vertigo typically involve the structures of the inner ear Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo : probably the most common cause of vertigo (e.g., Toupet et al 2003). It is characterised by brief, position-provoked vertigo episodes usually caused by freely floating particles in the semicircular canal (Parnes et al 2003). Meniere’s disease : Accounting for 10–15% of vertigo cases (Mukherjee et al 2003), Meniere’s disease is often associated with hearing loss and tinnitus, and is usually chronic. Meniere’s disease occurs in the vestibular system and appears to result from distention of the membranous labyrinth and an excess of endolymph. Patients often complain of a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear (Baloh 1998). Vertigo episodes may result from reversible mechanical dysfunction or from ruptures in the membrane separating the endolymph and perilymph. Vestibular neuronitis : refers to inflammation of the vestibular nerves, that may be the consequence of a virus, or have an ischaemic cause. (Strupp & Arbusow 2001). This type of vertigo is accompanied by nausea, vomiting and disequilibrium. Patients may present with a deep, burning ear pain. Acute labyrinthitis : inflammation of the labyrinth due to viral or bacterial infection. It often follows infections such as acute otitis media, chicken pox, mumps or measles. Labyrinthine infarct : The blood supply to the inner ear originates in the vertebrobasilar system. Infarct or haemorrhage in this system compromises blood flow to the labyrinthine and has a profound effect on labyrinthine function. Labyrinthine concussion : damage to the labyrinthine may occur after head trauma. Perilymph fistula : Leakage of the perilymph from the inner to the middle ear can result following damage to the labyrinth membranes. Such damage may result from head trauma, cholesteatoma, or a pressure altering event (Baloh 1998, Strupp & Arbusow 2001). Autoimmune inner ear disease : in some rare cases autoimmune disorders destroy inner ear cells, which may lead to hearing loss and/or vertigo. The autoimmune disease may only target the inner ear, or the inner ear damage may be a feature of a systemic disorder (Baloh 1998). References Baloh RW. Vertigo. Lancet 1998;352:1841–6. Mukherjee A, Chatterjee SK, Chakravarty A. Vertigo and dizziness – a clinical approach. JAPI 2003;51:109–101. Parnes LS, Agrawal SK, Atlas J. Diagnosis and management of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). CMAJ 2003;169:681– 93. Puri V, Jones E. Childhood vertigo: a case report and review of the literature. J Ky Med Assoc 2001;99:316–21. Salvinelli F, Firrisi L, Casale M, et al. What is vertigo? Clin Ter 2003;154:341–8. Strupp M, Arbusow V. Acute vestibulopathy. Curr Opin Neurol 2001;14:11–20. Toupet M, Rothoft J, Bremaud des Ouilleres L. Prise en charge des plaintes vertigineuses en ORL de ville. Rev SFORL 2004;83:57–63.
Vertigo of central origin: causes Central causes of vertigo originate in the central nervous system Migraine : vertigo may occur separately or with migraines; migraines are one of the most common central causes of vertigo Vascular disease : ischaemia in the vertebrobasilar system can lead to infarction in the brain stem or cerebellum. The resultant reduced blood supply to these areas can result in vertigo symptoms. It should be noted that cerebrovascular disease can also cause peripheral infarctions (structures in the inner ear each have their own blood flow which also originates in the vertebrobasilar arterial system), or a combination of peripheral and central infarctions may occur. Multiple sclerosis : vertigo may be the presenting feature of multiple sclerosis in approximately 5% of cases, and 50% of patients with multiple sclerosis are likely to suffer from vertigo during the course of their disease (Solomon 2000) Vestibular epilepsy : a rare cause of vertigo related to focal epileptic discharges in the temporal or parietal association cortex (Strupp & Arbusow, 2001) Cerebellopontine tumours : a rare cause of vertigo, these are most often benign tumours in the internal auditory meatus. References Baloh RW. Vertigo. Lancet 1998;352:1841–6. Mukherjee A, Chatterjee SK, Chakravarty A. Vertigo and dizziness – a clinical approach. JAPI 2003;51:109–101. Salvinelli F, Firrisi L, Casale M, et al. What is vertigo? Clin Ter 2003;154:341–8. Solomon D. Distinguishing and treating causes of central vertigo. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 2000;33:579–601. Strupp M, Arbusow V. Acute vestibulopathy. Curr Opin Neurol 2001;14:11–20.
Distinguishing peripheral and central peripheral causes of vertigo Vertigo can result from peripheral or central dysfunction. While the overall presenting symptom (e.g., an illusion of rotation) may be the same regardless of the cause, a number of features can provide an indication as to the location of the specific dysfunction . For example, peripheral causes usually result in vertigo of a sudden onset , with nausea and vomiting commonly reported; neurological symptoms and changes in consciousness are rare . In contrast, vertigo due to central causes is more likely to have a gradual onset and a persisting duration accompanied by severe imbalance and other neurological symptoms . Identifying the underlying aetiology is paramount to appropriate management. References Baloh RW. Differentiating between peripheral and central causes of vertigo. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1998;119:55–9. Puri V, Jones E. Childhood vertigo: a case report and review of the literature. J Ky Med Assoc 2001;99:316–21.
A nootropic drug has the following features: The enhancement of cognitive processes such as learning and memory Protection and restoration of cognitive abilities after cerebral insults Facilitation of interhemispheric flow of information and efficient tonic cortical/subcortical mechanism. Don't have any sedative or psychostimulant effect Piracetam is a cyclic derivative of GABA, and the first nootropic agent. Piracetam alleviates vertigo after head injury or vertigo of central origin. It also causes a significant decrease in the frequency and the severity of exacerbations in patients with chronic or recurrent vertigo.
Treating the cause: pharmacotherapy can eliminate some vertigo causes Once the cause of vertigo is known, treatment can be tailored accordingly . For example: Treatment for Meniere’s disease could involve restriction of salt intake to 1–2 g daily, diuretics (hydrochlorothiazide, acetazolamide), or more recently, transtympanic low-dose gentamicin is being increasingly used. Treatment for migraine could involve beta-blockers (propranolol 120–240 mg/day), calcium channel blockers (verapamil 120–240 mg/day), and tricyclic amines (nortriptyline 75–100 mg/day). Treatment for vertebrobasilar insufficiency or transient ischaemic attacks could involve aspirin 75–330 mg/day or ticlopidine 500 mg/day. References Baloh RW. Vertigo. Lancet 1998;352:1841–6. Goebel JA. Management options for acute versus chronic vertigo. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 2000;33:483–93.
Treating the cause: surgery is appropriate in only a small fraction of vertigo patients Surgery is appropriate in only a small number of dizziness cases (<5%; Goebel 2000). For example, when vertigo is caused by a tumour, surgical removal of the tumour is likely to be the best option. Surgery can also be useful as a last resort in some cases of severe recurrent vertigo, but only when the dysfunctional ear can be clearly established. In these cases, surgery can be ablative or non-ablative, and may or may not cause hearing loss. For patients with uncontrolled Meniere’s disease or peripheral vestibulopathy, labyrinthectomy or vestibular nerve section may be useful. Labyrinthectomy destroys the offending labyrinthine and is accompanied by complete unilateral hearing loss. In contrast, selective section of the vestibular portion of the eighth nerve spares hearing in around 90% of cases. Non-ablative endolymphatic sac surgery may also be effective in uncontrolled Meniere’s disease, and posterior canal occlusion is reserved for patients with BPPV that is nonresponsive to canalith repositioning manoeuvres. With all these surgical techniques, it is important to ensure that vertigo is caused by peripheral damage as opposed to central dysfunction. References Goebel JA. Management options for acute versus chronic vertigo. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 2000;33:483–93. Salvinelli F, Firrisi L, Casale M, et al. What is vertigo? Clin Ter 2003;154:341–8.
Pharmacotherapy can help manage symptoms in the short term Pharmacotherapy can be either specific to the underlying cause (for example, for Meniere’s disease, migraine, and vertebrobasilar insufficiency) or aspecific. Aspecific drugs are useful in managing symptoms, regardless of their cause. These include: Vestibular suppressants – These drugs fall into three major classes: anticholinergics, antihistamines and benzodiazepines. Anticholinergics suppress neural activity in the vestibular nucleus (most antihistamines also have anticholinergic activity); benzodiazepines suppress central neurone activity by modulating GABA. Examples of vestibular suppressants include: meclizine (antihistamine, anticholinergic), dimenhydrinate (antihistamine, anticholinergic), and diazepam (benzodiazepine). Antiemetics – These drugs control nausea and vomiting. Examples include prochlorperazine (dopamine antagonist) or metoclopramide (dopamine antagonist that facilitates gastric emptying) These treatments do not address the underlying vertigo cause but can help control initial acute symptoms , or while patient is waiting further treatment or investigations, or if no underlying cause can be identified. These symptomatic treatments should be discontinued as soon as possible as they may interfere with vestibular compensation processes. References Baloh RW. Vertigo. Lancet 1998;352:1841–6. Hain TC, Uddin M. Pharmacological Treatment of Vertigo. CNS Drugs 2003;17:85–100.
Rehabilitation exercises can encourage vestibular adaptation and compensation In many cases of vertigo, effective recovery depends on adaptation and compensation in areas of the central nervous system that process information on balance and equilibrium. Central adaptation requires neural reorganisation, allowing the patient to compensate for vestibular damage. It is a slow process and, because it involves neural learning, its benefits are sustained after the rehabilitation programme is discontinued. With time, this process of neural reorganisation is likely to occur naturally. However, vestibular exercises aim to facilitate this process providing more rapid relief from vertigo symptoms. Vestibular suppressants should be discontinued during rehabilitation. References Baloh RW. Vertigo. Lancet 1998;352:1841–6. Goebel JA. Management options for acute versus chronic vertigo. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 2000;33:483–93. Konnur MK. Vertigo and vestibular rehabilitation. J Postgrad Med 2000;46:222–3. Mukherjee A, Chatterjee SK, Chakravarty A. Vertigo and dizziness – a clinical approach. JAPI 2003;51:1095–101.
There are several types of vestibular rehabilitation exercises Vestibular rehabilitation exercises are used to promote neural reorganisation within areas of the central nervous system that process information on balance and disequilibrium. This process of neural reorganisation provides long-lasting relief from vertigo symptoms . Several types of rehabilitation exercises exist involving the head, neck, oculomotor, and general motor systems. References Konnur MK. Vertigo and vestibular rehabilitation. J Postgrad Med 2000;46:222–3.
Treatment is dependent on vertigo type Wherever possible, treatment should be directed at the underlying cause of the disease . This table shows specific treatments that can target certain types of vertigo. Treatment for Meniere’s diseases could involve: restriction of salt intake to 1–2 g daily, diuretics (hydrochlorothiazide, acetazolamide), and surgery if these treatments fail. Recently, transtympanic low-dose gentamicin has been increasingly used. Treatment for migraine could involve: beta-blockers (propranolol 120–240 mg/day), calcium channel blockers (verapamil 120–240 mg/day), and tricyclic amines (nortriptyline 75–100 mg/day). Treatment for vertebrobasilar insufficiency or transient ischaemic attacks could involve aspirin 75–330 mg/day or ticlopidine 500 mg/day. References Baloh RW. Vertigo. Lancet 1998;352:1841–6. Goebel JA. Management options for acute versus chronic vertigo. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 2000;33:483–93.
Nootropil ® : an alternative treatment for vertigo Theory behind its use Key points of this chapter: To examine how piracetam differs from other vertigo treatments
What is Piracetam? Piracetam was the first of a new class of drugs termed nootropics (agents that act on cognitive function without causing sedation or stimulation). While Nootropil ® is a cyclic derivative of -aminobutyric acid (GABA), its mode of action appears unrelated to the actions of this neurotransmitter. Instead, Nootropil ® exerts a range of effects on neurones and the vascular system. Consistent with this range of effects, Nootropil ® has demonstrated efficacy in a variety of conditions. First registered in 1971 by UCB Pharma, Nootropil ® was initially marketed in 1972 for the treatment of vertigo , and is now indicated for use in age-related cognitive disorders, cortical myoclonus, sickle cell anaemia and dyslexia*. *In adults • Symptomatic treatment of the psycho-organic syndrome whose features, improved by treatment, are memory loss, attention disorders and lack of drive. • Treatment of cortical myoclonus, alone or in combination. • Treatment of vertigo and associated disorders of balance, with the exception of dizziness of vasomotor or psychic origin. • For prophylaxis and remission of sickle cell vaso-occlusive crises. In children • Treatment of dyslexia, in combination with appropriate measures such as speech therapyin children from 8 years old and adolescents, • For prophylaxis and remission of sickle cell vaso-occlusive crises. Piracetam can be administered to children from 3 years old onwards suffering from sickle cell anemia References Winblad B. Piracetam: a review of pharmacological properties and clinical uses. CNS Drug Rev 2005;11(2):169-82
Balance requires information of similar intensity from both vestibular systems Movement of the head in any direction leads to movement of sensory hair cells in both left and right semicircular canals. Both vestibular systems (labyrinths) will then send similar information of the same intensity to the central vestibular nuclei located in the brain stem (e.g., information of intensity 10). The central nervous system integrates this information from the left side and the right side, and balance is maintained providing that the information is coherent and similar in intensity .
Central vertigo results from a dysfunction in central processing In central vertigo , the problem lies in the central nervous system, particularly in the vestibular nuclei of the brain stem. Several diseases can be responsible for dysfunction of the central nervous system by altering normal neuronal functioning or the transfer of information between vestibular nuclei. It is important to diagnose these conditions; if vertigo is a symptom of a more severe brain disease, then treatment is imperative. The process of ageing can also be responsible for central dysfunction . Ageing may cause an excessive loss of neurons in the vestibular nuclei, a local decrease in microcirculation or a local decrease of neuronal metabolism. Changes to neurotransmission and transfer of information between the left and right nuclei can also be a consequence of ageing. These processes (alone or in combination) can result in vertigo. Indeed, vertigo is more frequently observed in older people (Sloane 1989). In central vertigo the treatment must be focused on the brain. Nootropil ® is suited for the treatment of central vertigo in aged people because of its activities on microcirculation, neuronal metabolism, neurotransmission and transfer of information inside the central nervous system. References Sloane PD. Dizziness in primary care: results from the national ambulatory medical care service. J Fam Pract 1989;29:33–8.
Peripheral vertigo results from a dysfunction in vestibular system functioning In peripheral vertigo , the problem is located in one peripheral vestibular system or in the acoustic nerve (nerve number VIII), most often on one single side. This pathology means that there is an imbalance in the intensity of information sent from the vestibular apparatus to the vestibular nuclei in the brainstem . When the difference is important (e.g., an intensity of 5 on one side compared to the normal intensity of 10 on the other side), the central process is not able to compensate or integrate the information, and thus vertigo appears. Any of the structural components of the peripheral vestibular system may be affected in peripheral vertigo (e.g., the sensory cells, endolymph or local microcirculation). The damage can result from several pathophysiological mechanisms including trauma, infection, and tumor. When a cause can be identified, curative treatments can restore normal balance. However, it can be difficult to establish the exact cause because access to the vestibular apparatus is restricted by their encapsulation in bone. In the absence of an identifiable cause, or if the patient does not respond to treatment, this type of vertigo may still improve over time as spontaneous, physiological mechanisms adapt to the difference (a ‘compensation process’). This ‘mechanism of compensation’ is reinforced by vestibular rehabilitation exercises but usually takes time, and is often only partially successful.
Vestibular suppressants suppress vestibular function in both ears Symptomatic treatment may be useful in patients with peripheral vertigo . One of the most commonly used treatments is vestibular inhibition (e.g., anticholinergics or first generation sedative antihistamines: Giurgea CE, Moeyersoons FE, Evraerd AC. A GABA-related hypothesis on the mechanism of action of the antimotion sickness drugs. Arch Int Pharmacodyn 1967;166(1):238 ). These drugs suppress both normal and abnormal vestibular function, which leads to a reduction in the difference between the levels of input from each vestibular system (e.g., 10:5 vs 2:1). This smaller difference is more readily managed by central processing. These types of drugs can rapidly control vertigo. Unfortunately, central adaptation processes are also inhibited, and when the drug is stopped, vertigo often returns. With these drugs, eliminating vertigo and facilitating compensation appear incompatible .
Piracetam offers an interesting alternative to existing treatments Piracetam appears to enhance the normal processes of vestibular compensation - recovery of oculomotor and postural functions - in patients with both peripheral and central vertigo. Such a mode of action provides a logical approach to symptomatic treatment, which is distinct from that of other agents, in particular that of vestibular suppressant agent.
Piracetam’s mode of action: the membrane hypothesis Piracetam exerts a range of effects on neurones and the vascular system, suggesting that its primary mode of action is neither cell nor organ specific. Consistent with this proposal, it appears that many of the effects of Piracetam may result from restoration of membrane fluidity . Studies using synthetic membranes have shown that piracetam interacts with the polar head groups of phospholipid membranes in a dose-dependent manner. This action is likely to modify the shape of the phospholipids, inducing reorganisation of the lipid molecules. References M üller WE, Eckert GP, Eckert A . Piracetam: novelty in a unique mode of action. Pharmacopsychiatr 1999;32(Suppl. 1):2–9. Peuvot J, Schanck A, Deleers M, Brasseur R. Piracetam-induced changes to membrane physical properties. Biochem Pharmacol 1995;50:1129–34.
Restored membrane fluidity may account for Piracetam’s efficacy in vertigo The mode of action of Piracetam is not yet fully elucidated. However, it appears to exert a range of neuronal and vascular effects. Neuronal effects: Nootropil ® has been shown to influence cholinergic, serotoninergic, dopaminergic, noradrenergic and glutaminergic systems without direct receptor agonism or antagonism. Nootropil ® has been reported to have neuroplastic effects , such as increasing synapse numbers in animals. Nootropil ® may facilitate glucose utilization , thus increasing metabolism Nootropil ® has been reported to facilitate transfer of information between brain hemispheres Vascular effects: Nootropil ® exerts several effects on erythrocytes , enhancing their deformability and decreasing their adhesion to the endothelium. These properties, coupled with an observed prevention of vasospasm , and normalised platelet hyperaggregability are likely to facilitate microcirculation . By increasing neurotransmitter function, promoting neuroplasticity, and enhancing microcirculation, Nootropil ® is likely to facilitate vestibular compensation and adaptation, which may underlie its efficacy in vertigo. References Winblad B. Piracetam: a review of pharmacological properties and clinical uses. CNS Drug Rev 2005;11(2):169-82.
A number of studies have examined the use of Piracetam in vertigo A number of studies have examined the use of Piracetam in patients with vertigo due to a range of aetiologies. Although the studies generally involve small, fairly heterogeneous samples, this reflects the range of vertigo typically encountered in the clinic. References Aantaa E, Meurman OH. The effect of piracetam (Nootropil ® , UCB-6215) upon the late symptoms of patients with head injuries. J Int Med Res 1975;3:352–5. Dauman R, Billardon M, Fondarai J. Preliminary, double-blind, comparative study of the efficacy of Nootropyl® (piracetam) versus placebo, in the treatment of vertigo. Les Cahiers d'O. R. L. 1995;4:241–8. Deza Bringas L. Treatment of the subjective post-traumatic syndrome with piracetam. Revista de Neuro-Psiquiatria 1984;47:74–86. Gavalas G, Vathilakis I, Dokianakis G, Papazoglou G. Piracetam in the treatment of vertigo of vascular origin; a double-blind study in patients with vertigo of central character. Proceedings of the XVth Scientific meeting of the Neurootological and Equilibriometric Society. Bad Kissingen, 17-20 March 1988. (Excerpta Medica), 533–8. 1988. Haguenauer JP. Clinical study of piracetam in the treatment of vertigo. Les Cahiers d'O. R. L. 1986;21:460–6. Hakkarainen H, Hakamies L. Piracetam in the treatment of post-concussional syndrome. A double-blind study. Eur Neurol 1978;17:50–5 Oosterveld WJ. The efficacy of Piracetam in vertigo. Arzneimittelforschung 1980;30:1947–1949. Rosenhall U, Deberdt W, Friberg U, Kerr A, Oosterveld W. Piracetam in patients with chronic vertigo. Clin Drug Invest 1996;11:251–60.
Piracetam eliminates vestibular symptoms in more patients with peripheral vertigo than placebo In this double-blind study, 50 patients with vertigo of peripheral origin (labyrinthine [n = 22], retrolabyrinthine [n = 26], or unclassified [n = 2]), were randomised to 60 days’ treatment with Piracetam (2.4 g/day) or placebo. This slide shows that Piracetam had a substantial impact on vestibular symptoms , as assessed by the clinician. Following Nootropil ® treatment, nystagmus and index deviation were eliminated in all patients who presented with these symptoms, and the number of patients with imbalance and star gait was markedly reduced. In contrast, placebo treatment had little effect on vestibular symptoms; the number of patients presenting with nystagmus, index deviation, imbalance or star gait was unchanged at study end. Consistent with these findings, both physicians and patients rated vertigo intensity as markedly reduced with Nootropil ® treatment but relatively unchanged with placebo. References Haguenauer JP. Clinical study of piracetam in the treatment of vertigo. Les Cahiers d'O. R. L. 1986;21:460–6.
Piracetam significantly reduces frequency and intensity of vertigo crises This double-blind study assessed the effect of Nootropil ® on a range of vertigo symptoms in patients with vertigo of peripheral origin (labyrinthine [n = 22], retrolabyrinthine [n = 26], or unclassified [n = 2]). Vertigo was assessed using a visual analogue scale (0–100 mm) and results expressed as percentage change from baseline. At baseline, vertigo was severe; patients reported a monthly average of 40 episodes, equating to over 1 episode a day. After 60 days’ treatment, vertigo frequency and intensity as assessed by the clinician using a visual analogue scale had significantly decreased with Piracetam relative to placebo . Similar results were reported by the patients, who rated vertigo frequency as decreased by 51% with Nootropil ® and increased by 41% with placebo (p < 0.05); the equivalent values for vertigo intensity were -65% and -7%, respectively (p < 0.0001). References Haguenauer JP. Clinical study of piracetam in the treatment of vertigo. Les Cahiers d'O. R. L. 1986;21:460–6. Oosterveld WJ. Piracetam in vertigo: a review. 2000. UCB Report
Piracetam ’s beneficial effect on vertigo persists following treatment cessation This study examined the effect of Piracetam in 143 patients with vertigo due to varying causes. Patients received 2.4 g/day Nootropil ® or placebo for 8 weeks. 89 patients fulfilled the protocol and were included in the presented analysis. The reduction in number of vertigo episodes compared with baseline was significantly greater with Piracetam than with placebo. Furthermore, this reduction in vertigo episodes remained significant 4 weeks after treatment cessation , suggesting that Piracetam exerts a long-term effect on vertigo . Date from week 4 are data on file. (While promising, these results should be interpreted with some caution as patients allocated Nootropil ® reported a significantly greater number of episodes at baseline.) References Rosenhall U, Deberdt W, Friberg U, Kerr A, Oosterveld W. Piracetam in patients with chronic vertigo. Clin Drug Invest 1996;11:251–60.
Piracetam rapidly and markedly improves intensity of unspecified chronic vertigo Patients with vertigo (n = 20) were randomised to treatment with Nootropil ® (3 g/day) or placebo for 30 days. Several variables were evaluated including number, duration and intensity of vertigo crises, instability between crises, and impact of vertigo on professional and social activity. As shown in the figure, Piracetam had a pronounced effect on vertigo intensity . After 15 days the percentage improvement in intensity was significantly greater with Nootropil ® than placebo (p < 0.002). These results were supported by several other analyses. For example, the calculation of a vertigo index (composite of number, duration and intensity of crises) showed that, while there was no difference between groups at baseline, after 30 days, vertigo was improved to a significantly greater extent with Nootropil ® than placebo (p < 0.02). Additionally, Nootropil ® had a significantly greater positive impact on nausea intensity (p < 0.02) and tinnitus (p < 0.01) than placebo. References Dauman R, Billardon M, Fondarai J. Preliminary, double-blind, comparative study of the efficacy of Nootropyl ® (piracetam) versus placebo, in the treatment of vertigo. Les Cahiers d'O. R. L.1995;4:241–8.
More patients achieved remission of vertigo symptoms with Piracetam than placebo This study examined the efficacy of Nootropil ® compared with placebo in 20 patients with vertigo of central vascular origin. Patients received Nootropil ® (2.4 g/day) or placebo for 8 weeks. At the end of treatment, only 20% of placebo-treated patients showed marked improvement. In contrast, 50% of Nootropil ® -treated patients had achieved total remission of symptoms as assessed by clinicians; no patients achieved remission with placebo. Similar findings were reported by patients. References Gavalas G, Vathilakis I, Dokianakis G, Papazoglou G. Piracetam in the treatment of vertigo of vascular origin; a double-blind study in patients with vertigo of central character. Proceedings of the XVth Scientific meeting of the Neurootological and Equilibriometric Society. Bad Kissingen, 17-20 March 1988. (Excerpta Medica), 533–8. 1988.
Fewer patients experience instability between crises after Piracetam treatment In addition to showing a significant effect of Piracetam on the characteristics of vertigo (e.g., intensity of episodes), this study also reported that fewer patients experience instability between vertigo episodes with Piracetam treatment than with placebo . Patients were randomised to Nootropil ® (3 g/day) or placebo for 30 days. At trial end, only 30% of patients presented with instability after Nootropil ® treatment compared with 80% of placebo-treated patients (p < 0.05). (Corresponding baseline values were 60 and 70%, respectively.) The results from this small sample are consistent with those of Rosenhall et al (1996), who reported that 8 weeks’ Nootropil ® treatment significantly reduced severity of malaise (p < 0.01) and imbalance (p < 0.001) between vertigo episodes relative to placebo. Together these findings suggest that Nootropil ® ’s efficacy in vertigo patients goes beyond its effects on vertigo episodes . References Dauman R, Billardon M, Fondarai J. Preliminary, double-blind, comparative study of the efficacy of Nootropyl ® (piracetam) versus placebo, in the treatment of vertigo. Les Cahiers d'O. R. L.1995;4:241–8. Rosenhall U, Deberdt W, Friberg U, Kerr A, Oosterveld W. Piracetam in patients with chronic vertigo. Clin Drug Invest 1996;11:251–60.
Piracetam reduces vertigo-related symptoms between episodes Many patients with vertigo report symptoms between vertigo attacks such as imbalance and general malaise. This study of 143 patients with vertigo due to varying causes investigated the effect of Nootropil ® on vertigo during and between crises. Patients received 2.4 g/day Nootropil ® or placebo for 8 weeks. 89 patients fulfilled the protocol and were included in the presented analysis. Nootropil ® significantly decreased the number of vertigo episodes relative to placebo (data not shown). However, these data are difficult to interpret as patients allocated Nootropil ® reported a significantly greater number of episodes at baseline. In terms of symptoms between crises, the groups were equally matched at baseline. After 8 weeks’ treatment, there were significantly greater reductions in severity of malaise and imbalance with Nootropil ® than with placebo (p < 0.01 and 0.001, respectively). Furthermore, incapacity was reduced by approximately 2 days with Nootropil ® but increased by approximately 1 day with placebo (p < 0.001). Nootropil ® therefore offers significant advantages over placebo in treating symptoms between vertigo crises . References Rosenhall U, Deberdt W, Friberg U, Kerr A, Oosterveld W. Piracetam in patients with chronic vertigo. Clin Drug Invest 1996;11:251–60.
Piracetam: an alternative treatment for vertigo Efficacy in post-concussion vertigo Key points of this chapter: Vertigo after head trauma is common. Nootropil ® alleviates symptoms in patients with post-concussion vertigo (patients with post-concussion vertigo are normally younger than patients with vertigo resulting from other causes).
Vertigo complaints after head trauma are common Head or neck injuries can cause a range of pathologies that can manifest as vertigo . For example, even blunt injuries can dislodge particles into the semicircular canals, leading to benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or cause rupture of structures in the inner ear, resulting in vestibular dysfunction. Head trauma can also impinge on central mechanisms of balance. For example, damage to the temporal or parietal association cortices (which process vestibular information) can result in epileptic vertigo. Given the range of aetiologies that can cause vertigo in patients following head trauma, it is important to assess each patient individually to ensure their specific pathology is accurately identified in order to initiate the most appropriate treatment strategy. References Friedman JM. Post-traumatic vertigo. Med Health RI 2004;84:296–300.
Three studies of similar design have been conducted with Piracetam in Post Concussion Vertigo (Aanta 1975, Hakkarainen 1978, Deza Bringas 1984). All were double-blind and placebo-controlled, with an 8-week treatment period. Piracetam was given as either a total dose of 2.4 g/day or 4.8 g/day. References Aantaa E, Meurman OH. The effect of piracetam (Nootropil ® , UCB-6215) upon the late symptoms of patients with head injuries. J Int Med Res 1975;3:352–5. Deza Bringas L. Treatment of the subjective post-traumatic syndrome with piracetam. Revista de Neuro-Psiquiatria 1984;47:74–86. Hakkarainen H, Hakamies L. Piracetam in the treatment of post-concussional syndrome. A double-blind study. Eur Neurol. 1978;17(1):50-5.
The three studies examined 157 patients suffering from Post-concussion vertigo. The table here shows results from the 3 studies, with regards to improvement in vertigo.
The mechanism of action of piracetam in vertigo is thought to be mediated through enhancement of central compensation and adaptation to vestibular dysfunction thanks to restoration of central neurotransmission and neuronal metabolism, and enhancement of blood flow in the microcirculation in areas where vascularisation is inadequate, centrally but also in the vestibular labyrinth. The increase of microperfusion associated with piracetam may therefore be relevant. Piracetam has also been shown to improve cognition in the ageing brain, and may therefore help to improve concentration and memory problems associated with post-concussion vertigo.