Traumatic Brain Injury— How To Obtain Proper Diagnosis of Balance and Dizziness Disorders

We have handled a number of cases at the Alaska Personal Injury Law Group where clients have developed balance and dizziness complaints after suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in automobile crashes or similar assaults to the brain. It is not commonly known that these disorders flow from TBI, and attorneys often miss the connection. These disorders can develop in several ways, but a common mechanism is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV is a balance and dizziness disorder caused by a problem in the vestibular system of the inner ear which forms part of the body’s balance system. Small particles, or crystals, of the inner ear are dislodged with the trauma and this interferes with the normal function of the inner ear. This can cause episodic vertigo that can be quite disturbing to the client. If untreated, the episodes can recur for years and become part of the lasting and unfortunate legacy of TBI.

There are treatments for BPPV through a series of scripted movements by trained therapists designed to put these crystals back in their normal position. This is called a canalith repositioning maneuver, and significant improvement has been experienced by some clients.

To properly diagnose a patient regarding the many potential causes of balance and dizziness problems, a client often undergoes vestibular testing, but it has traditionally been aimed at finding a localized problem, a “site of lesion”. The major limitation of these site-of-lesion tests is that they assess structural and physiological changes within individual sensory or motor components in isolation, rather than in the functional context of balance control. A new type of testing has been developed called the Neurocom Balance Manager, which is designed to provide a comprehensive differential diagnosis of sensory, motor, and central functional impairments of balance control. Developed using methods created by NASA to study balance in astronauts, Neurocom uses a computerized dynamic posturography (CDP) system that professes to offer a more comprehensive means of diagnosing the patient, which hopefully will lead to more specific and helpful treatment.

Source: Mayo Clinic Vertigo Rehabilitation; Mayo Clinic Vestibular Lab; Neurocom International, Inc.

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