Nystagmus is a rhythmical rotation of the eyeball. Its characteristics can be defined mathematically by the axis of rotation and the angular velocity around this axis. We analysed the axis of rotation for the nystagmus in benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) to elucidate its pathophysiology. Thirteen patients with typical unilateral BPPV participated in the present study. The axis of rotation for the nystagmus was calculated from images recorded on digital videotape with an infrared CCD camera, using an algorithm that we developed. The patients' responsiveness to Semont's liberatory maneuver was also assessed. The results showed that patients could be assigned to one of two groups based on the rotation axis of the nystagmus. In one group of patients (n = 7; Group A), the axis of rotation was almost vertical to the plane containing the posterior semicircular canal (PSC) on the presumed affected side. In the other group of patients (n = 6; Group B), it was clustered around the naso-occipital axis. These results suggest that in the patients in Group A the responsible lesion is confined to the PSC, whereas the pathogenesis underlying the conditions in those in Group B is considered to be more complicated. This speculation was reinforced by the difference in responsiveness to Semont's liveratory maneuver. All of the patients in Group A showed remission of vertigo within 10 days (mean, 2.4 days) after onset of treatment using Semont's liberatory maneuver, whereas the patients in Group B required much longer periods of time for remission to occur (mean, 25.7 days). Our findings lead to the conclusion that by considering the spatial orientation of individual semicircular canals, in the patients in Group B the pathophysiology is not confined to the PSC, but most probably all three semicircular canals are involved.
ASJC Scopus subject areas