Epidemiology of Dizzy Patient Population in a Neurotology Clinic and Predictors of Peripheral Etiology

Thomas Muelleman, Matthew Shew, Rahul Subbarayan, Axel Shum, Kevin Sykes, Hinrich Staecker, James Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare the proportion of peripheral versus nonperipheral dizziness etiologies among all patients, inclusive of those presenting primarily or as referrals, to rank diagnoses in order of frequency, to determine whether or not age and sex predict diagnosis, and to determine which subgroups tended to undergo formal vestibular testing. Study Design: Retrospective cohort. Setting: Academic neurotology clinic. Patients: Age greater than 18 neurotology clinic patients with the chief complaint of dizziness. Intervention(s): None. Main Outcome Measure(s): Age, sex, diagnosis, record of vestibular testing. Results: Two thousand seventy-nine patients were assigned 2,468 diagnoses, of which 57.7 and 42.3% were of peripheral and nonperipheral etiologies, respectively. The most common diagnoses were Ménière's (23.0%), vestibular migraine (19.3%), benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) (19.1%), and central origin, nonmigraine (16.4%). Peripheral diagnoses are more likely to be found in men than in women (odds ratio [OR] 1.59). Peripheral diagnoses were most likely to be found in the 60 to 69 age group (OR 3.82). There was not a significant difference in rate of vestibular testing between women and men. Among patients with two diagnoses, the most common combinations were vestibular migraine and BPPV then vestibular migraine and Ménière's. Conclusions: A large proportion of patients seen for the chief complaint of dizziness in the neurotology clinic were found not to have a peripheral etiology of their symptoms. These data challenge a prevalent dogma that the most common causes of dizziness are peripheral: BPPV, vestibular neuritis, and Ménière's disease. Age and sex are statistically significant predictors of peripheral etiology of dizziness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)870-875
Number of pages6
JournalOtology and Neurotology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Central dizziness
  • Dizziness
  • Epidemiology
  • Neurotology clinic
  • Peripheral dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Vestibular migraine


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