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Schlick, Cornelia; Schniepp, Roman; Loidl, Verena; Wuehr, Max; Hesselbarth, Kristin and Jahn, Klaus (28. October 2015): Falls and fear of falling in vertigo and balance disorders: a controlled cross-sectional study. In: Journal of Vestibular Research, Vol. 25, No. 5-6: pp. 241-251

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BACKGROUND: Vertigo and dizziness are among the most prevalent symptoms in neurologic disorders. Although many of these patients suffer from postural instability and gait disturbances, there is only limited data on their risk of falling. METHODS: We conducted a controlled cross-sectional study at the tertiary care outpatient clinic of the German Center for Vertigo and Balance Disorders using a self-administered questionnaire to assess falls, fall-related injuries, and fear of falling. The recruitment period was 6 months. RESULTS: A total of 569 patients (mean age 59.6 ± 17.1 years, 55% females) and 100 healthy participants were included (response rate > 90%). Dizzy patients with central balance disorders (Parkinsonian, cerebellar, and brainstem oculomotor syndromes) had the highest fall rates (> 50% recurrent fallers, odds ratio > 10). The rate of recurrent fallers was 30% in bilateral vestibular failure and peripheral neuropathy (odds ratio > 5). Patients with functional dizziness (somatoform or phobic vertigo) were concerned about falling but did not fall more often than healthy controls (odds ratio 0.87). CONCLUSION: Falls are common in patients presenting to a dizziness unit. Those with central syndromes are at risk of recurrent and injurious falling. Fall rates and fear of falling should be assessed in balance disorders and used to guide the regimen of rehabilitation therapy. The identification of risk factors would help provide protective measures to these groups of patients.

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