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Pitfalls and Rewards for Implementing Ocular Motor Testing in Acute Vestibular Syndrome: A Pilot Project

Dumitrascu, Oana M. MD, MS; Torbati, Sam MD; Tighiouart, Mourad PhD; Newman-Toker, David E. MD, PhD; Song, Shlee S. MD

doi: 10.1097/NRL.0000000000000106
Original Article

Objectives: Isolated acute vestibular syndrome (iAVS) presentations to the emergency department (ED) pose management challenges, given the concerns for posterior circulation strokes. False-negative brain imaging may erroneously reassure clinicians, whereas HINTS-plus examination outperforms imaging to screen for strokes in iAVS. We studied the feasibility of implementing HINTS-plus testing in the ED, aiming to reduce neuroimaging in patients with iAVS.

Methods: We launched an institutional Quality Improvement initiative, using DMAIC methodology. The outcome measures [proportion of iAVS subjects who had HINTS-plus examinations and underwent neuroimaging by computed tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (CT/MRI)] were compared before and after the established intervention. The intervention consisted of formal training for neurologists and emergency physicians on how to perform, document, and interpret HINTS-plus and implementation of novel iAVS management algorithm. Neuroimaging was not recommended if HINTS-plus suggested peripheral vestibular etiology. If a central process was suspected, brain MRI/MR angiogram was performed. Head CT was reserved only for thrombolytic time-window cases.

Results: In the first 2 months postimplementation, HINTS-plus testing performance by neurologists increased from 0% to 80% (P=0.007), and by ED providers from 0% to 9.09% (P=0.367). Head CT scans were reduced from 18.5% to 6.25%. Brain MRI use was reduced from 51.8% to 31.2%. About 60% of the iAVS subjects were discharged from the ED; none were readmitted or had another ED presentation in the ensuing 30 days.

Conclusions: Implementation of HINTS-plus evaluation in the ED is valuable and feasible for neurologists, but challenging for emergency physicians. Future studies should determine the “dose-response” curve of educational interventions.

Departments of *Neurology

Emergency Medicine

Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA

§Departments of Neurology and Otolaryngology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

D.E.N.-T. reports NIH grant support and research equipment loaned by GN Otometrics and Interacoustics. D.E.N.-T.’s effort was partly supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (1 U01 DC013778-01A1). S.S.S. served on the scientific advisory board for Boehringer-Ingelheim and Portola Pharmaceuticals and is funded by NIH, California Community Foundation, and GenenTech grants for MR Witness (P50 NS051343), RHAPSODY (U01 NS088312), SUCCEED, and PRISMS stroke clinical trials. The other authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Oana M. Dumitrascu, MD, MS, Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic Arizona, 5777 East Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85054. E-mail:

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