Simulator based rehabilitation in refractory dizziness

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Abstract.Patients with chronic vestibular symptoms are common in neurological practice but the most effective treatment remains an open question. The purpose of our study was to conduct a controlled, between-group comparison of patients' responses to a customised exercise regime (Group C, for customised) versus treatment additionally incorporating simulator based desensitisation exposure (Group S, for simulator) integrating whole-body or visual environment rotators. Forty chronic peripheral vestibular patients who had previously undergone conventional vestibular rehabilitation without notable improvement were randomly assigned into Group C or S. Individuals attended therapy sessions twice weekly for eight weeks and were provided with a customised home programme. Response to treatment was assessed at four-week intervals with dynamic posturography, vestibular time constants, and questionnaires concerning symptoms, symptom-triggers and emotional status. At final assessment posturography and subjective scores had significantly improved for both groups, although Group S showed greater improvement. A statistically significant improvement for visual vertigo symptom scores was noted only for Group S (p < 0.01; total improvement 53.5 %). Anxiety and depression levels significantly decreased for both groups; improvements were significantly correlated particularly to improvements in visual vertigo (SCQ) (p < 0.01; r = 0.53 and r = 0.57, respectively). Significant differences were noted between groups (p = 0.02) for posturography scores. Vestibular time constants showed no notable change in either group. Conclusions: Both groups improved but exposure to simulator motion gave overall better results. These effects were also observed in psychological symptoms and partly relate to simulator effects on visual vertigo symptoms. Visual motion and visuo-vestibular conflict situations should be incorporated in the rehabilitation of patients with refractory dizziness.

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