Emergency Radiology

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 45–49 | Cite as

Utility of head CT in the evaluation of vertigo/dizziness in the emergency department

  • Courtney Lawhn-HeathEmail author
  • Christopher Buckle
  • Gregory Christoforidis
  • Christopher Straus
Original Article


Acute dizziness (including vertigo) is a common reason to visit the emergency room, and imaging with head CT is often performed initially to exclude a central cause. In this study, consecutive patients presenting with dizziness and undergoing head CT were retrospectively reviewed to determine diagnostic yield. Four hundred forty-eight consecutive head CTs in a representative sample of dizzy emergency room (ER) patients, including patients with other neurological symptoms, were reviewed to identify an acute or subacute cause for acute dizziness along with the frequency and modalities used in follow-up imaging. The diagnostic yield for head CT ordered in the ER for acute dizziness is low (2.2 %; 1.6 % for emergent findings), but MRI changes the diagnosis up to 16 % of the time, acutely in 8 % of cases. Consistent with the American College of Radiology appropriateness criteria and the literature, this study suggests a low diagnostic yield for CT in the evaluation of acute dizziness but an important role for MRI in appropriately selected cases.


Dizziness Vertigo CT Utilization Emergency department 



The authors would like to thank Jack Collins, Sarah Orrin, Jay Patel, Danny Cheng, and Will Whetsell for their assistance with data collection. Our work was supported by the Arthur Quern fellowship and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine Summer Research Program.


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Copyright information

© Am Soc Emergency Radiol 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Courtney Lawhn-Heath
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher Buckle
    • 2
  • Gregory Christoforidis
    • 2
  • Christopher Straus
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Chicago Pritzker School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  2. 2.University of Chicago Medical CenterChicagoUSA

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