Dizziness…the good and the ugly…

The differential diagnosis of vertigo can be broken into peripheral and central causes. It is imperative the Emergency Physician consider central causes of vertigo.

Signs/ Symptoms Differentiating Peripheral and Central Vertigo

OnsetSudden or InsidiousSudden
Severity of VertigoIntense SpinningIll-defined, may be severe or less intense
Prodromal DizzinessOccurs in up to 25%, often single episodeOccurs in up to 25%, recurrent episodes suggest TIA’s
Intolerant of head movements/Dix-Hallpike ManeuverYesVaries, but often intolerant
Associated Nausea/DiaphoresisFrequentVariable, but often frequent
Auditory SymptomsPoints to peripheral causesMay be present
Proportionality of SymptomsUsually proportionalOften disproportionate
Headache/Neck PainUnusualMore likely
CNS signs/symptomsAbsentUsually present
Head Impulse TestAbnormalOften normal
HINTS TestingNegativeAbnormal in at least 1 out of 3 tests


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