Researchers at Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust identified a new condition in traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients that causes loss of vertigo perception (dizziness) and balance called vestibular agnosia (VA).
Out of 37 patients with TBI, 15 were diagnosed with VA a via neurological and physical assessments. 10 of the patients with VA had little or no perception of vertigo, and 16 patients overall had a benign inner ear condition which affects balance. Patients with VA were more physically unstable and had more diffuse white matter damage in the brain compared to healthy matched controls.
They study also found that clinicians were 7 times more likely to miss diagnosing treatable inner ear conditions in TBI patients with VA as they had little or no perception of vertigo. This means that patients who are in most need of balance assessment and treatment, are least likely to receive it.
Why it matters: This study is the first to identify VA in TBI patients and important in the study of how the brain uses signals from the ear to control balance. As there are currently no treatments for VA, guidelines should be updated to facilitate early diagnosis and complications caused by TBI-related imbalance.