Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Newly diagnosed incident dizziness of older patients: a follow-up study in primary care

Julia Sczepanek1, Birgitt Wiese2, Eva Hummers-Pradier1 and Carsten Kruschinski1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of General Practice, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

2 Centre for Biometry, Medical Informatics and Medical Technology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

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BMC Family Practice 2011, 12:58  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-58

Published: 24 June 2011



Dizziness is a common complaint of older patients in primary care, yet not much is known about the course of incident dizziness. The aim of the study was to follow-up symptoms, subjective impairments and needs of older patients (≥65) with incident dizziness and to determine predictors of chronic dizziness. Furthermore, we analysed general practitioners' (GPs') initial diagnoses, referrals and revised diagnoses after six months.


An observational study was performed in 21 primary care practices in Germany, including a four-week and six-month follow-up. A questionnaire comprising characteristic matters of dizziness and a series of validated instruments was completed by 66 participants during enrolment and follow-up (after 1 month and 6 months). After six months, chart reviews and face-to-face interviews were also performed with the GPs.


Mean scores of dizziness handicap, depression and quality of life were not or only slightly affected, and did not deteriorate during follow-up; however, 24 patients (34.8%) showed a moderate or severe dizziness handicap, and 43 (62.3%) showed a certain disability in terms of quality of life at the time of enrolment. In multivariate analysis, n = 44 patients suffering from chronic dizziness (dependent variable, i.e. relapsing or persistent at six months) initially had a greater dizziness handicap (OR 1.42, 95%CI 1.05-1.47) than patients with transient dizziness. GPs referred 47.8% of the patients to specialists who detected two additional cases of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).


New-onset dizziness relapsed or persisted in a considerable number of patients within six months. This was difficult to predict due to the patients' heterogeneous complaints and characteristics. Symptom persistence does not seem to be associated with deterioration of the psychological status in older primary care patients. Management strategies should routinely consider BPPV as differential diagnosis.