LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM –– A condition that causes loss of vertigo perception and imbalance has been diagnosed in traumatic brain injury patients for the first time.
In a clinical study led by researchers at Imperial College London and clinicians at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, out of 37 patients with acute traumatic brain injury (TBI), fifteen were diagnosed with a newly characterized neurological diagnosis called vestibular agnosia – a condition in the brain which results in loss of vertigo perception and imbalance.
The team also found that these patients have worse balance problems than TBI patients without vestibular agnosia and are unlikely to experience dizziness – one of the main criteria to assess balance problems in TBI patients. As a result doctors are seven times more likely to miss cases of balance dysfunction in TBI patients with vestibular agnosia than in those without.
Dizziness and Balance Issues in Patients with Traumatic Brain Injury
This small study is the first to show vestibular agnosia in TBI patients and the researchers believe that current guidelines should be updated to include screening and laboratory tests for TBI patients for vestibular agnosia so that it can be diagnosed and managed at an earlier stage.
The study, published in the journal Brain, was led by Dr. Barry Seemungal, who is a Consultant Neurologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London.
“Imbalance affects a majority of TBI patients leading to them having falls fairly frequently,” said Dr. Seemungal. “It can affect patients’ physical and mental wellbeing, as well as affecting patients financially as it can make it hard for them to return to work post treatment. Some of these adults also have to support a family or care for elderly patients, meaning the knock-on effect of ill-health in this group is multi-generational. Frequent falls in this patient group also have a financial impact on the NHS due to frequent readmissions to hospitals.
“Our study is the first to identify loss of vertigo in some TBI patients and explain why they have balance problems and falls. This finding could lead to the development of new treatments and diagnostic tests. Importantly, current guidelines require updating so that clinicians can screen for vestibular agnosia in TBI patients at a much earlier stage as common treatable balance problems will be missed if the patients do not have access to these tests. We believe that diagnosing and treating these balance problems early will lead to a quicker recovery and a better quality of life for our patients.”
–Dr. Barry Seemungal
**Read the full story on Imperial College London’s website here.
Elena Calzolari, Mariya Chepisheva, Rebecca M Smith, Mohammad Mahmud, Peter J Hellyer, Vassilios Tahtis, Qadeer Arshad, Amy Jolly, Mark Wilson, Heiko Rust, David J Sharp, Barry M Seemungal, Vestibular agnosia in traumatic brain injury and its link to imbalance, Brain, , awaa386, https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awaa386