Vestibular Consequences of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Blast Exposure: A Review

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The purpose of this article is to review relevant literature on the effect of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and blast injury on the vestibular system. Dizziness and imbalance are common sequelae associated with mTBI, and in some individuals, these symptoms may last for six months or longer. In war-related injuries, mTBI is often associated with blast exposure. The causes of dizziness or imbalance following mTBI and blast injuries have been linked to white matter abnormalities, diffuse axonal injury in the brain, and central and peripheral vestibular system damage. There is some evidence that the otolith organs may be more vulnerable to damage from blast exposure or mTBI than the horizontal semicircular canals. In addition, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a common vestibular disorder following head injury that is treated effectively with canalith repositioning therapy. Treatment for (non-BPPV) mTBI-related vestibular dysfunction has focused on the use of vestibular rehabilitation (VR) augmented with additional rehabilitation methods and medication. New treatment approaches may be necessary for effective otolith organ pathway recovery in addition to traditional VR for horizontal semicircular canal (vestibulo-ocular reflex) recovery.