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Handbook of Non
Drug Intervention
(HANDI) Project Team The Epley manoeuvre
For benign paroxysmal positional vertigo

BPPV is typically associated with intense vertigo,

The Epley manoeuvre (canalith repositioning) can be used to treat posterior canal
which is usually less marked in central positional
benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV is characterised by brief episodes
vertigo. Furthermore, nystagmus often persists
of vertigo related to rapid changes in head position. BPPV can be confirmed by the
in central positional vertigo when the head is
Dix-Hallpike positional test. The Epley manoeuvre is easily performed in the clinic,
or by the patient, and is described in detail in this article. It has NHMRC Level I maintained in the same position.
evidence of efficacy and no serious adverse effects have been reported.
This article forms part of a series on non-drug treatments, which summarise the
The intervention
indications, considerations and the evidence, and where clinicians and patients How to do the Epley manoeuvre
can find further information.
General practitioners, patients, other medical
practitioners and physiotherapists can administer
the Epley manoeuvre.
The condition How is BPPV confirmed?
Requirements: a bed or table that can be accessed
Posterior canal BPPV is confirmed by a positive
What is BPPV? from both sides and which allows for the patients
Dix-Hallpike positional test (the Hallpike head to be positioned off the end of the table. A bowl
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) manoeuvre), with unequivocal features of
is advisable in case of vomiting.
is a syndrome characterised by episodes positional nystagmus. The test is not positive
Figure 1 illustrates the Epley manoeuvre for
of vertigo, which last for approximately in patients with anterior and horizontal
treating left-sided posterior semicircular canal
160 seconds, are related to rapid changes semicircular canal BPPV, both of which are much
in head position, particularly movements less common.
related to gravity and those involving neck A positive Dix-Hallpike positional test What should I consider?
extension (eg. lying down in bed, reaching provokes vertigo and nystagmus when the
up for high objects, bending over) and may patient is moved from a sitting position to lying Considerations
be associated with nausea and vomiting, down, with the head tipped 45 degrees below
Special care should be taken with both the Dix-
which can last for up to several hours. the horizontal, 45 degrees to the side and with
Hallpike test and the Epley manoeuvre in patients
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is the side of the affected ear (and semicircular
with neck pain, stiffness or discomfort and in those
believed to be due to debris (canaliths) in canal) downward. The nystagmus typically has
with neck injury, severe cervical spondylosis or
the semicircular canals of the ear. Canaliths a latency of a few seconds before onset and
severe positional dizziness or vertigo. Infrequently
may continue to move after the head stops fatigues after approximately 3040 seconds.
moving, with stimulation of the vestibular The nystagmus is rotatory with the fast phase patients are unable to tolerate the manoeuvre
nerve leading to vertigo. beating toward the lower ear (geotropic) and because of cervical pain, stiffness or discomfort.
Symptoms of BPPV usually resolve adapts with repeated testing. Optic fixation Adverse effects
spontaneously within 12 weeks, but may (when the eyes are fixed on a specific object)
persist for up to several months. Attacks may reduce the severity of the nystagmus. No serious adverse effects have been reported.
tend to occur in clusters and symptoms Common side effects include vertigo and nausea
Are there any key differentials (and sometimes vomiting) during the manoeuvre.
may recur, following periods of apparent
to consider?
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo needs
What causes BPPV? to be distinguished from central positional National Health and Medical Research Council
Although most cases are unexplained, BPPV vertigo, which may occur with: (NHMRC) Level I evidence (systematic review
is associated with head trauma, vestibular multiple sclerosis of randomised controlled trials) that the Epley
neuritis, vertebrobasilar ischaemia, cerebellar disease manoeuvre is safe and effective for the treatment of
labyrinthitis, middle ear surgery and periods brainstem ischaemia posterior semicircular canal BPPV, until symptoms
of prolonged bed rest. migraine. resolve.

36 Reprinted from Australian Family Physician Vol. 42, No. 1/2, january/february 2013
The Epley manoeuvre for benign positional vertigo clinical

Figure 1. The Epley manoeuvre for treating left-sided posterior semicircular canal disease

Anything else? vertigo. Figure 3. N Engl J Med 1999;341:15906 Authors

Hilton MP, Pinder DK. The Epley (canalith repo- HANDI Project Team.
In patients refractory to the Epley manoeuvre,
sitioning) manoeuvre for benign paroxysmal
diagnoses such as central positional vertigo and Acknowledgements
positional vertigo. Cochrane Database Syst Rev
anterior and horizontal semicircular canal BPPV should 2004;2:CD003162. Members of the HANDI Project Team include
be re-considered. Formal vestibular function testing is Professor Paul Glasziou, Dr John Bennett,
sometimes required to confirm the diagnosis. Clinician resource Dr Peter Greenberg, Professor Sally Green,
Video links to the Epley manoeuvre and the Professor Jane Gunn, Associate Professor
Dix-Hallpike test can be found at http://ent. Tammy Hoffman and Associate Professor
Resources Marie Pirotta.
Key references Competing interests: None.
von Brevern M, Radtke A, Lezius F, et al. Patient resource Provenance and peer review: Commissioned;
Epidemiology of benign paroxysmal positional The Better Health Channel has consumer informa-
not peer reviewed.
vertigo: a population based study. J Neurol tion about BPPV at
Neurosurg Psychiatry 2007;78:7105 bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Vertigo_benign_par-
Furman JM, Cass SP. Benign, paroxysmal positional oxysmal_positional_vertigo?open.

Reprinted from Australian Family Physician Vol. 42, No. 1/2, january/february 2013 37
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