New physiotherapy rapid access service brings quicker diagnosis for dizziness

Patient with two Physiotherapists

Patient Coral La Spina with Vestibular Physiotherapists Bella Prowse (left) and Kelly Costa.

For those who experience dizziness in their daily life, the challenge of finding a proper diagnosis and treatment can be discouraging. Now, thanks to a new service at The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH), patients with dizziness can be assessed and treated earlier.

The new Vestibular Physiotherapy Rapid Access Service enables patients who present to the hospital’s emergency department (ED) with dizziness to be seen directly by specialised Advanced Vestibular Physiotherapists for timely assessment, and followed up as an outpatient within just a few days, thereby avoiding an overnight hospital stay.

Previously, patients required a referral to the vestibular outpatient clinic and may have waited several weeks for an appointment, with some returning to the emergency department in that time because of ongoing symptoms.

Advanced Vestibular Physiotherapist, Kelly Costa said that it was common for people with dizziness to present to an emergency department.

“Dizziness can be the result of an inner ear issue, such as a virus, or potentially something more serious, such as a stroke. It can cause symptoms such as nausea, poor balance and walking difficulty that leave the person unable to function properly which can be terrifying,” Kelly said.

“When a patient presents to the ED, we use specialised equipment to test and magnify their eye movement, as well as other physical tests to help determine their cause of dizziness. In many cases, when the patient’s dizziness is related to their inner ear, we can recommend different exercises to quickly relieve their condition.

“Where the patient’s dizziness appears to be due to something more serious, we can relay those findings to the emergency department doctors to assist them in finding a diagnosis.”

Patient Santino Dut presented to TPCH’s emergency department earlier this year with dizziness he had been experiencing on and off for six years.

“The room was often spinning, but the dizziness wasn’t there all the time. It was hard to describe what was going on. Family and friends said it would go away in time, but it didn’t,” Mr Dut said.

“When I came to The Prince Charles Hospital, the doctors in the emergency department told me someone would be coming to help with my dizziness.”

Mr Dut was assessed in the emergency department by the vestibular physiotherapy team as having benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, a condition well known for causing nausea and relentless dizziness, with limited positions of relief.

“I was so glad to meet the physiotherapist who could tell me what was going on. Never before in the last six years, has my dizziness gone away and now it has. It was excellent treatment,” Mr Dut said.

The clinic, which is supported through the Department of Health, has seen approximately 388 patients since it commenced in February this year.

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