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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

BPPV & Flying

10/30/1997

Question:

Does flying effect someone who has BPPV?

Answer:

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is felt to result from either the accumulation of debris on the sensory organs of the posterior semicircular canal or accumulation of debris within the canal itself (the semicircular canals are loczted in the inner ear and are important organ receptors for balance). This results in the formation of a gravity sensing organ that previously only responded to acceleration. Although there has been little published on flying and BPPV, many patients who suffer from BPPV note difficulty with sudden changes in head position. It is theoretically possible that the acceleration experienced in jet flight could result in displacement of the sensory cells of the posterior canal resulting in vertigo. More likely, though, patients with BPPV who are flying would suffer from what most patients with the disorder suffer from, and that is disequilibrium while lying back with the involved ear down. Patients suffering from disequilibrium who are undergoing plane flight should consider taking vestibular suppressants.

Rick A. Friedman, MD, PhD Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology College of Medicine University of Cincinnati

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Response by:

Thomas A Tami, MD Thomas A Tami, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati