OBJECTIVE: Experiments in humans and animals indicate that vestibular influx through vestibular sympathetic reflex is an important and vital part of the regulatory system of circulation. The otolith organ adjusts the circulatory responses through the vestibular sympathetic reflex during an upright stance and may trigger a vasovagal attack of syncope. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the prevalence and association of syncope attacks among patients with Ménière’s disease (MD). Vestibular syncope was defined as a sudden and transient loss of consciousness, which subsides spontaneously in people with vestibular disorders and without localizing neurological deficit.
METHODS: During clinical interactions, we encountered 5 patients with syncope during a Tumarkin attack of MD. Thereafter we evaluated data from 952 patients collected with a questionnaire from the Finnish Ménière Association (FMA). The data contained case histories with special attention to Tumarkin attacks, participation restriction, migraines, and syncope attacks. The mean age of the subjects participating in the study was 60.6 years (range 25-75 years). The duration of the disease was on average 9.8 years (range 0.5-35 years).
RESULTS: In the current study sample, attacks of syncope were reported by 38 patients (4%) in association with the vertigo attack. Syncope was associated with Tumarkin attacks (X2=16.7, p<0.001), migraine (X2=7.4, p<0.011), history of ischemic heart disease (X2=6.0, p<0.025), and history of cerebrovascular disease (X2=11.7, p<0.004). Duration of MD was correlated with syncope. Syncope was provoked by physical strain and environmental pressure, and was associated with impairment of the visual field (i.e., visual blurring). In logistic regression analysis, syncope was significantly associated with Tumarkin attacks (odds ratio 3.2), migraines (odds ratio 2.3) and nausea (odds ratio 1.3). The attack of syncope was experienced as frightening, and general health related quality of life (HRQoL) was significantly worsened. Also, the patients suffered more from fatigue.
CONCLUSION: The current study indicates that patients with MD who suffer from Tumarkin attacks can suffer from syncope. It confirms the role of the otolith organ in controlling the circulatory homeostasis of the body. The actions are mediated through the vestibular sympathetic reflex.