Objective: The head impulse test (HIT) assesses the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) and is used to differentiate vestibular neuritis (abnormal VOR) from stroke (normal VOR) in patients presenting with an acute vestibular syndrome (AVS). The video-oculography-based HIT (vHIT) quantifies VOR function and provides information imperceptible for the clinician during clinical bedside HIT. However, the vHIT—like an electrocardiogram—requires experienced interpretation, which is especially difficult in the emergency setting. This calls for a simple, reliable and rater-independent way of analysis.
Methods: We retrospectively collected 171 vHITs performed in patients presenting with AVS to our emergency department. Three neuro-otological experts comprehensively assessed the vHITs including interpretability (artifacts), VOR gain (eye/head velocity ratio), velocity profile (abrupt decline) and corrective saccades (overt/covert). Their consensus rating (abnormal/peripheral vs. normal/central) was compared to a simple algorithm that automatically classified the vHITs based on a single VOR gain cutoff (0.7).
Results: Inter-rater agreement between experts was high (Fleiss’ kappa = 0.74). Five (2.9 %) vHITs were “uninterpretable” according to experts’ consensus, 80 (46.8 %) were rated “normal” and 86 (50.3 %) “abnormal”. The algorithm had substantial agreement with the experts’ consensus (Cohen’s kappa = 0.75). Importantly, it correctly classified all of the normal/central vHITs denoted by the experts (100% specificity) and at the same time it had sufficient sensitivity (75.6%) in detecting abnormal/peripheral vHITs.
Conclusion: A simple, automated, gain-based evaluation of the vHIT reliably detects normal/central VOR and may be a feasible and effective tool to screen AVS patients for potentially underlying stroke in the emergency setting.