How often is dizziness from primary cardiovascular disease true vertigo? A systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To assess how frequently cardiovascular dizziness is vertigo. Recent studies suggest providers do not consider cardiovascular causes when a patient reports true vertigo (spinning/motion) as opposed to presyncope (impending faint). It is known that cardiovascular disease causes dizziness, but unknown how often such dizziness is vertiginous, as opposed to presyncopal. DATA SOURCES: Systematic review of observational studies was made: Search-electronic (MEDLINE, EMBASE) and manual (references of eligible articles) search for English-language studies (1972-2007). REVIEW METHODS: Inclusions Studies of ≥5 patients with confirmed cardiovascular causes for dizziness and reporting a proportion with vertigo were included. Two independent reviewers selected studies for inclusion, with differences adjudicated by a third. Study characteristics and dizziness-type proportions were abstracted. Studies were rated on methodology and quality of dizziness definitions. Differences were resolved by consensus. RESULTS: We identified 1,506 citations, examined 125 full manuscripts, and included 5 studies. Principal reasons for exclusion were: abstracts-lack of original data, no cardiovascular diagnosis, or confounding exposure/disease (74%); manuscripts-failure to distinguish vertigo from other dizziness types (78%). In the three studies not using vertigo as an entry criterion (representing 1,659 patients with myocardial infarction, orthostatic hypotension, or syncope), vertigo was present in 63% (95% CI 57-69%) of cardiovascular patients with dizziness and the only dizziness type in 37% (95% CI 31-43%). Limitations include modest study quality and non-uniform definitions for vertigo. CONCLUSIONS: Published data suggest that dizziness from primary cardiovascular disease may often be vertigo. Future research should assess prospectively whether dizziness type is a meaningful predictor for or against a cardiovascular diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2087-2094
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Diagnosis
  • Medical history taking
  • Meta-analysis
  • Syncope
  • Vertigo

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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