Menière's Disease in the Elderly

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ObjectivesTo assess the prevalence, presentation, treatment, and evolution of Menière's disease in elderly patients (≥65 yr old).Study DesignRetrospective clinical study and case report.SettingA neuro-otology referral center at the university hospital in Bern, Switzerland, and a neurotologic practice in Geneva, Switzerland.PatientsPatients were selected from the hospital clinic and otolaryngologic practice registers. Among 8423 neurotologic checkups performed between 1988 and 1998, 432 (5.1%) patients had definite Menière's disease and 66 (15.3%) of these patients were ≥65 years old.InterventionThe files of these 66 patients were analyzed.ResultsMenière's disease in the elderly had 2 modes of presentation: reactivation of longstanding Menière's disease (40.9%) and de novo Menière's disease (59.1%), where the first dizzy spells, tinnitus, and hearing loss appeared after 65 years of age. Drop attacks occurred in 11.1 and 25.6% of the cases, respectively, and could be responsible for misdiagnosis of strokes of the brainstem. The patients were treated by mild antivertiginous drugs (betahistine, cinnarizine). Twenty-seven patients (41%) underwent surgery: transtympanic ventilation tubes (19 patients), sacculotomy (4 patients), vestibular neurectomy (3 patients), surgical labyrinthectomy (1 patient). The vertigo spells disappeared in 73.3 to 100% of the cases according to the type of surgery performed.ConclusionOur study shows that Menière's disease in the elderly is not at all uncommon. It can appear as a de novo disease or as a reactivated longstanding disease. Drop attacks are more frequent than reported in general patient populations with Menière's disease and can mimic a stroke of the brainstem. Medical and surgical treatments have to be cautious because many of these elderly patients are fragile.

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