Background Vestibular drop attacks (VDA), also called Tumarkin otolith crises as a complication of Ménière’s disease (MD) were first described in 1936. Nevertheless, a clearer understanding of their prevalence and manifestations is needed.
The objective of this review is to determine the frequency, correlates and consequences of VDA in MD.
Method: Three databases were searched (i.e., MEDLINE, PubMed and Google Academia). A total of 1,791 references were identified, of which 18 studies were considered eligible. There was a large variation in the definition of VDA used in the studies.
Results: The frequency of VDA in MD leading to a fall to the ground varied from 3 to 19% in 9 hospital-based studies. In studies where a less restrictive definition of VDA included attacks with postural perturbation, tripping and near-to-fall situations was used the prevalence ranged from 50 to 72%. The pooled frequency of VDA leading to fall to the ground was 8% (95% CI 4 to 12%) in hospital-based studies. In these studies, VDA often occurred in severe and advanced MD whereas in cohort studies such connection was not found. Co-morbidity with migraine increased the likelihood of VDA occurrence in MD. In 3 studies syncope was recorded in connection to VDA with falls. In terms of clinical manifestation, audiometry, MRI, vestibular evoked muscle response measures indicated endolymphatic hydrops with involvement of the otolith system. The hearing loss was more pronounced, and balance was worse in MD patients with VDA than in those without. Injury associated with VDA was reported in only one study.
Conclusions: VDA is a common phenomenon in MD, occurring even in mild MD and complicated with syncope. Some preliminary evidence suggests that VDA may lead to severe injuries.