OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to explore the useful of vestibular evoked myogenic potential (VEMP) testing for detecting endolymphatic hydrops, especially in the second ear of patients with unilateral Ménière disease (MD). METHODS: This study was performed at a tertiary care academic medical center. Part I consisted of postmortem temporal bone specimens from the temporal bone collection of the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary; part II consisted of consecutive consenting adult patients (n = 82) with unilateral MD by American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery criteria case histories. Outcome measures consisted of VEMP thresholds in patients and histologic saccular endolymphatic hydrops in postmortem temporal bones. RESULTS: Saccular hydrops was observed in the asymptomatic ear in six of 17 (35%) of temporal bones from donors with unilateral MD. Clinic patients with unilateral MD showed elevated mean VEMP thresholds and altered VEMP tuning in their symptomatic ears and, to a lesser degree, in their asymptomatic ears. Specific VEMP frequency and tuning criteria were used to define a "Ménière-like" response. This "Ménière-like" response was seen in 27% of asymptomatic ears of our patients with unilateral MD. CONCLUSIONS: Bilateral involvement is seen in approximately one third of MD cases. Saccular hydrops appears to precede symptoms in bilateral MD. Changes in VEMP threshold and tuning appear to be sensitive to these structural changes in the saccule. If so, then VEMP may be useful as a detector of asymptomatic saccular hydrops and as a predictor of evolving bilateral MD.
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