The influence of unilateral saccular impairment on functional balance performance and self-report dizziness.



Postural stability in humans is largely maintained by vestibular, visual, and somatosensory inputs to the central nervous system. Recent clinical advances in the assessment of otolith function (e.g., cervical and ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potentials [cVEMPs and oVEMPs], subjective visual vertical [SVV] during eccentric rotation) have enabled investigators to identify patients with unilateral otolith impairments. This research has suggested that patients with unilateral otolith impairments perform worse than normal healthy controls on measures of postural stability. It is not yet known if patients with unilateral impairments of the saccule and/or inferior vestibular nerve (i.e., unilaterally abnormal cVEMP) perform differently on measures of postural stability than patients with unilateral impairments of the horizontal SCC (semicircular canal) and/or superior vestibular nerve (i.e., unilateral caloric weakness). Further, it is not known what relationship exists, if any, between otolith system impairment and self-report dizziness handicap.


The purpose of this investigation was to determine the extent to which saccular impairments (defined by a unilaterally absent cVEMP) and impairments of the horizontal semicircular canal (as measured by the results of caloric testing) affect vestibulospinal function as measured through the Sensory Organization Test (SOT) of the computerized dynamic posturography (CDP). A secondary objective of this investigation was to measure the effects, if any, that saccular impairment has on a modality-specific measure of health-related quality of life.

Research Design

A retrospective cohort study. Subjects were assigned to one of four groups based on results from balance function testing: Group 1 (abnormal cVEMP response only), Group 2 (abnormal caloric response only), Group 3 (abnormal cVEMP and abnormal caloric response), and Group 4 (normal control group).

Study Sample

Subjects were 92 adult patients: 62 were seen for balance function testing due to complaints of dizziness, vertigo, or unsteadiness, and 30 served as controls.


All subjects underwent videonystagmography or electronystagmography (VNG/ENG), vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMPs), self-report measures of self-perceived dizziness disability/handicap (Dizziness Handicap Inventory), and tests of postural control (Neurocom Equitest).

Data Collection And Analysis

Subjects were categorized into one of four groups based on balance function test results. All variables were subjected to a multifactor analysis of variance (ANOVA). The Dizziness Handicap Inventory (DHI) total scores and equilibrium scores served as the dependent variables.


Results showed that patients with abnormal unilateral saccular or inferior vestibular nerve function (i.e., abnormal cVEMP) demonstrated significantly impaired postural control when compared to normal participants. However, this group demonstrated significantly better postural stability when compared to the group with abnormal caloric responses alone and the group with abnormal caloric responses and abnormal cVEMP results. Patients with an abnormal cVEMP did not differ significantly on the DHI compared to the other two impaired groups.


We interpret these findings as evidence that a significantly asymmetrical cVEMP in isolation negatively impacts performance on measures of postural control compared to normal subjects but not compared to patients with significant caloric weaknesses. However, patients with a unilaterally abnormal cVEMP do not differ from patients with significant caloric weaknesses in regard to self-perceived dizziness handicap.

American Academy of Audiology.