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Treating vertigo by surgery.

A surgical technique on one of the inner ear balance canals is relieving severe, long-standing positional vertigo in patients at the Ochsner Medical Institutions, New Orleans. During an office exam, the individual is moved to his or her back and placed in different positions. Rapid eye motion is used to help detect if one of the inner ear's three canals is malfunctioning, causing the vertigo. Usually, it is the posterior semicircular canal.

During the one-and-a-half-hour surgery, an incision is made behind the ear. The inner ear is opened and the malfunctioning balance canal is blocked off to prevent it from causing vertigo. Using the patient's bone dust and fibrous tissue taken from the operative area, a plug is fashioned to block the canal. The plugged area is less than a half-inch in width. The average hospital stay is two to three days. Risks of infection and hearing loss are minimal. Results are noticeable within two weeks following surgery.

Positional vertigo is one of the most common types of dizziness seen in adults. It usually arises after acute trauma to the ears or from a viral infection and is triggered by certain motions or positions that the patient assumes. Episodes are brief, but severe, frequently accompanied by nausea. For many sufferers, the condition restricts their lifestyles. Even slight movement during sleep can cause the vertigo. In its most severe form, the condition may immobilize a person.

Prior to the availability of Posterior Semicircular Canal Obliteration, treatment included exercises and medication to suppress the symptoms. Surgical options involved cutting the nerve to the balance canal, an extremely delicate and demanding procedure, associated with high rates of hearing loss.

"The past surgical solution was not worth the risk," notes Timothy Molony, a neuro-otologist at the Ochsner Ear Institute. "However, with Posterior Semicircular Canal Obliteration, we have treatment that offers excellent results and is vastly safer. This is a step forward in managing people who have this problem."
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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