A poor man’s test for vestibular dysfunction

Jacob Brodsky iPhone bucket vestibular dysfunction dizziness

Dizziness is a definite challenge to evaluate in children. “One of the toughest things to figure out is, is it a problem with the vestibular system, or is it part of something else, a heart problem or an eye problem?” says Jacob Brodsky, MD, director of the Balance and Vestibular Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Then, the next challenge is determining whether it is an inner ear problem or a problem with the brain.”

A definitive answer often requires fancy equipment that generally isn’t available at pediatric centers. But with an ordinary bucket, an iPhone, an $18 app and some Velcro, Brodsky can quickly get a good indication of whether a child has a vestibular disorder — and specifically an inner ear problem.

The test is quick and simple: patients put their face in the bucket and turn it to “straighten” a vertical line displayed on an iPhone (affixed to the bottom of the bucket). The iPhone then calculates the patient’s subjective visual vertical (SVV), a measure of vestibular function. Brodsky hopes to see pediatricians, neurologists and otolaryngologists adopt this approach to do office-based testing.

Read more the iPhone + bucket test for vestibular dysfunction on our sister blog, Vector.