A new device lets people treat a common cause of dizziness in the comfort of their own home, Canadian researchers say.
So-called “benign paroxysmal positional vertigo” (BPPV) affects roughly 10 percent of the population over age 60, according to studies done in the late 1980s. It is characterized by intense vertigo (room spinning), which often occurs when looking up, rolling over in bed, or bending under things.
BPPV results from the build-up of crystals in the inner ear. Doctors typically treat BPPV with a physical maneuver to shift the crystals out of a canal in the inner ear where they cause the feeling of dizziness.
The so-called “Epley” maneuver is fairly simple and highly effective - but difficult for patients to remember how to do on their own. So Dr. Matthew Bromwich and colleagues at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Canada developed a device to help them.
The device, which attaches to the brim of any common baseball cap, is called the DizzyFIX and costs $150. Bromwich is now the CEO of the company that manufactures it, Clearwater Clinical Limited, but he told Reuters Health that his financial involvement began only after the present study was completed.
The device consists of a plastic tube that attaches to the hat in a way that makes it visible to the person wearing it. The tube contains a thick fluid and a particle. As the patient moves, the particle moves too, giving visual feedback. The user simply guides the particle through the device to relieve their dizziness.
“The tube shape was designed to enable accurate replication of the Epley maneuver,” say the researchers. The particle will only move ahead if the patient performs the maneuver correctly.
In their study, published in the Archives of Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, the researchers gave the DizzyFIX to 40 patients suffering from BPPV. After one week of home treatment, 35 patients (88 percent) had no evidence of BPPV.
There were no serious complications.
The researchers did not include a group of patients with BPPV who did not use the device, but the findings compare “very well to physician-guided treatment for BPPV,” Bromwich told Reuters Health by e-mail. In a follow-up phone interview, he added that BPPV often recurs, both after home treatment with the new device and after physician-guided treatment.
“Recurrence is about 60 percent,” he said. “(The device) cures BPPV about as much as Tylenol cures a headache. The only difference (between the device and physician treatment) is that when you get a recurrence you just reach under the bed, pull out the DizzyFIX, put it on your head, and two and a half minutes later you’re cured and you go back to sleep.”
The DizzyFIX is approved by the FDA for use with a prescription in the U.S. It’s also approved for use in Europe and Canada.