Dizziness is a common symptom among emergency department (ED) patients and is often associated with benign processes. The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence of severe central neurological pathologies in isolated dizziness cases and the diagnostic efficiency of neuroimaging studies.
All applications for isolated dizziness to an academic ED between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2017 were retrospectively reviewed. The frequency of these admissions, the demographic data of the patients, the results of cranial computed tomography (CT) and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) studies, and the central neurological causes of isolated dizziness were recorded.
The percentage of patients with isolated dizziness among all ED admissions was 2.5% (29,510/1,190,857). The median age of these patients was 52 years (interquartile range: 38 to 66) and 58% were female. During the study period, the rate of neuroimaging studies for isolated dizziness increased year by year, and a total of 6406 (21.7%) cranial CTs and 2896 (9.8%) DW-MRIs were performed. The diagnostic yield of neuroimaging studies was 0.6% for cranial CT and 3.9% for DW-MRI. Central neurological disorders were detected in 143 (0.48%) patients with isolated dizziness. The most common causes were posterior circulation ischemic strokes (47.5%), other ischemic strokes (18.9%), vertebrobasilar insufficiency (10.5%), and transient ischemic attack (8.4%).
Isolated dizziness is rarely associated with central neurological pathologies. Neuroimaging studies, especially cranial CT, have low diagnostic yield in isolated dizziness and should therefore not be routine in the evaluation process.