Controversy exists surrounding the diagnosis of spontaneous perilymphatic fistula. In an effort to help resolve this controversy the author conducted a review of the literature as well as a review of 212 of his patients who underwent surgical exploration for suspected perilymphatic fistula. Interpretation of the literature reviewed was hampered by the lack of a uniformly accepted definition for the word spontaneous. Dorland's Medical Dictionary
defines spontaneous as that which occurs without external influence. Webster's Dictionary
, on the other hand, provides a much more confining definition of the word by stating that a spontaneous event is one that occurs or is produced by its own energy. Only 58 percent of the author's 212 patients had an antecedent history of an external event that may have precipitated the suspected perilymphatic fistula (trauma, flying, diving) while almost 41 percent recalled an antecedent event of internal origin (lifting, straining, sneezing, nose blowing). If one were to support the definition of spontaneous provided by Dorland's Medical Dictionary
, then the 41 percent of patients who had no antecedent history of external event would have to be considered as having spontaneous perilymphatic fistula. If, on the other hand, one were to endorse the definition of spontaneous provided by Webster's
then less than 2 percent of the author's patients would have to be considered as having spontaneous perilymphatic fistula.