Pseudo-spontaneous nystagmus in horizontal semicircular canal canalolithiasis

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Abstract

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) involving horizontal semicircular canal (HSCC) is characterized by direction-changing positional nystagmus (DCPN) in a supine roll test, and the occurrence of spontaneous nystagmus in HSCC BPPV has been reported recently. The aim of this study is to investigate the characteristics of pseudo-spontaneous nystagmus (PSN) in patients with HSCC canalolithiasis, and evaluate the effect of the presence of PSN on treatment outcome.

Between April 2014 and January 2016, 75 and 59 patients with HSCC canalolithiasis and cupulolithiasis, respectively, were enrolled. Spontaneous and positional nystagmus were examined.

PSN was observed in 31 of 75 patients (41%) with HSCC canalolithiasis, and 55 of 59 patients (93%) with HSCC cupulolithiasis. PSN persisted during the period of observation, which was at least 1 minute in all patients with PSN. In HSCC canalolithiasis, direction-reversing nystagmus was observed in 58 patients (25 bilateral and 33 unilateral). Nine of 25 patients with bilateral direction-reversing nystagmus, and 22 of 33 patients with unilateral direction-reversing nystagmus showed PSN. None of 17 patients without direction-reversing nystagmus showed PSN. The direction of PSN corresponded to that of direction-reversing nystagmus in all 22 patients with unilateral direction-reversing nystagmus. The proportion of patients who recovered after 1 session of repositioning maneuver was not significantly different between patients with and without PSN (P = .867).

PSN was observed more commonly in HSCC cupulolithiasis than canalolithiasis. The pathophysiologic mechanism underlying PSN can be explained by natural inclination of HSCC and medial to lateral orientation of the HSCC cupular axis in cupulolithiasis, and by spontaneous reversal of initial positional nystagmus (direction-reversing nystagmus) generated by short-term adaptation of vestibulo-ocular reflex in canalolithiasis. The presence of PSN in HSCC canalolithiasis may not affect the treatment outcome.

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