Clinicians perspectives in using head impulse-nystagmus-test of skew (HINTS) for acute vestibular syndrome: UK experience

Background

Acute vestibular syndrome (AVS) features continuous dizziness and may result from a benign inner ear disorder or stroke. The head impulse-nystagmus-test of skew (HINTS) bedside assessment is more sensitive than brain MRI in identifying stroke as the cause of AVS within the first 24 hours. Clinicians’ perspectives of the test in UK secondary care remains unknown. Here, we explore front-line clinicians’ perspectives of use of the HINTS for the diagnosis of AVS.

Methods

Clinicians from two large UK hospitals who assess AVS patients completed a short online survey, newly designed with closed and open questions.

Results

Almost half of 73 total responders reported limited (n=33), or no experience (n=19), reflected in low rates of use of HINTS (n=31). While recognising the potential utility of HINTS, many reported concerns about subjectivity, need for specialist skills and poor patient compliance. No clinicians reported high levels of confidence in performing HINTS, with 98% identifying training needs. A lack of formalised training was associated with onward specialist referrals and neuroimaging (p=0.044).

Conclusions

Although the low sample size in this study limits the generalisability of findings to wider sites, our preliminary data identified barriers to the application of the HINTS in AVS patients and training needs to improve rapid, cost-effective and accurate clinical diagnosis of stroke presenting with vertigo.

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