Diagnostic accuracy of the physical examination in emergency department patients with acute vertigo or dizziness: A systematic review and meta-analysis for GRACE-3

Vishal Paresh Shah, Lucas Oliveira J. e Silva, Wigdan Farah, Mohamed O. Seisa, Abdalla Kara Balla, April Christensen, Magdoleen Farah, Bashar Hasan, Fernanda Bellolio, M. Hassan Murad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: History and physical examination are key features to narrow the differential diagnosis of central versus peripheral causes in patients presenting with acute vertigo. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the diagnostic test accuracy of physical examination findings. Methods: This study involved a patient–intervention–control–outcome (PICO) question: (P) adult ED patients with vertigo/dizziness; (I) presence/absence of specific physical examination findings; and (O) central (ischemic stroke, hemorrhage, others) versus peripheral etiology. Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluations (GRADE) was assessed. Results: From 6309 titles, 460 articles were retrieved, and 43 met the inclusion criteria: general neurologic examination—five studies, 869 patients, pooled sensitivity 46.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 32.3%–61.9%, moderate certainty) and specificity 92.8% (95% CI 75.7%–98.1%, low certainty); limb weakness/hemiparesis—four studies, 893 patients, sensitivity 11.4% (95% CI 5.1%–23.6%, high) and specificity 98.5% (95% CI 97.1%–99.2%, high); truncal/gait ataxia—10 studies, 1810 patients (increasing severity of truncal ataxia had an increasing sensitivity for central etiology, sensitivity 69.7% [43.3%–87.9%, low] and specificity 83.7% [95% CI 52.1%–96.0%, low]); dysmetria signs—four studies, 1135 patients, sensitivity 24.6% (95% CI 15.6%–36.5%, high) and specificity 97.8% (94.4%–99.2%, high); head impulse test (HIT)—17 studies, 1366 patients, sensitivity 76.8% (64.4%–85.8%, low) and specificity 89.1% (95% CI 75.8%–95.6%, moderate); spontaneous nystagmus—six studies, 621 patients, sensitivity 52.3% (29.8%–74.0%, moderate) and specificity 42.0% (95% CI 15.5%–74.1%, moderate); nystagmus type—16 studies, 1366 patients (bidirectional, vertical, direction changing, or pure torsional nystagmus are consistent with a central cause of vertigo, sensitivity 50.7% [95% CI 41.1%–60.2%, moderate] and specificity 98.5% [95% CI 91.7%–99.7%, moderate]); test of skew—15 studies, 1150 patients (skew deviation is abnormal and consistent with central etiology, sensitivity was 23.7% [95% CI 15%–35.4%, moderate] and specificity 97.6% [95% CI 96%–98.6%, moderate]); HINTS (head impulse, nystagmus, test of skew)—14 studies, 1781 patients, sensitivity 92.9% (95% CI 79.1%–97.9%, high) and specificity 83.4% (95% CI 69.6%–91.7%, moderate); and HINTS+ (HINTS with hearing component)—five studies, 342 patients, sensitivity 99.0% (95% CI 73.6%–100%, high) and specificity 84.8% (95% CI 70.1%–93.0%, high). Conclusions: Most neurologic examination findings have low sensitivity and high specificity for a central cause in patients with acute vertigo or dizziness. In acute vestibular syndrome (monophasic, continuous, persistent dizziness), HINTS and HINTS+ have high sensitivity when performed by trained clinicians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-578
Number of pages27
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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