Pharmacological interventions for prophylaxis of vestibular migraine

Katie E. Webster*, Afrose Dor, Kevin Galbraith, Luma Haj Kassem, Natasha A. Harrington-Benton, Owen Judd, Diego Kaski, Otto R. Maarsingh, Samuel MacKeith, Jaydip Ray, Vincent A. van Vugt, Martin J. Burton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Vestibular migraine is a form of migraine where one of the main features is recurrent attacks of vertigo. These episodes are often associated with other features of migraine, including headache and sensitivity to light or sound. These unpredictable and severe attacks of vertigo can lead to a considerable reduction in quality of life. The condition is estimated to affect just under 1% of the population, although many people remain undiagnosed. A number of pharmacological interventions have been used or proposed to be used as prophylaxis for this condition, to help reduce the frequency of the attacks. These are predominantly based on treatments that are in use for headache migraine, with the belief that the underlying pathophysiology of these conditions is similar. Objectives: To assess the benefits and harms of pharmacological treatments used for prophylaxis of vestibular migraine. Search methods: The Cochrane ENT Information Specialist searched the Cochrane ENT Register; Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); Ovid MEDLINE; Ovid Embase; Web of Science;; ICTRP and additional sources for published and unpublished trials. The date of the search was 23 September 2022. Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs in adults with definite or probable vestibular migraine comparing beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, antiepileptics, antidepressants, diuretics, monoclonal antibodies against calcitonin gene-related peptide (or its receptor), botulinum toxin or hormonal modification with either placebo or no treatment. We excluded studies with a cross-over design, unless data from the first phase of the study could be identified. Data collection and analysis: We used standard Cochrane methods. Our primary outcomes were: 1) improvement in vertigo (assessed as a dichotomous outcome - improved or not improved), 2) change in vertigo (assessed as a continuous outcome, with a score on a numerical scale) and 3) serious adverse events. Our secondary outcomes were: 4) disease-specific health-related quality of life, 5) improvement in headache, 6) improvement in other migrainous symptoms and 7) other adverse effects. We considered outcomes reported at three time points: < 3 months, 3 to < 6 months, > 6 to 12 months. We used GRADE to assess the certainty of evidence for each outcome. Main results: We included three studies with a total of 209 participants. One evaluated beta-blockers and the other two evaluated calcium channel blockers. We did not identify any evidence for the remaining interventions of interest. Beta-blockers versus placebo. One study (including 130 participants, 61% female) evaluated the use of 95 mg metoprolol once daily for six months, compared to placebo. The proportion of people who reported improvement in vertigo was not assessed in this study. Some data were reported on the frequency of vertigo attacks at six months and the occurrence of serious adverse effects. However, this is a single, small study and for all outcomes the certainty of evidence was low or very low. We are unable to draw meaningful conclusions from the numerical results. Calcium channel blockers versus no treatment. Two studies, which included a total of 79 participants (72% female), assessed the use of 10 mg flunarizine once daily for three months, compared to no intervention. All of the evidence for this comparison was of very low certainty. Most of our outcomes were only reported by a single study, therefore we were unable to conduct any meta-analysis. Some data were reported on improvement in vertigo and change in vertigo, but no information was available regarding serious adverse events. We are unable to draw meaningful conclusions from the numerical results, as these data come from single, small studies and the certainty of the evidence was very low. Authors' conclusions: There is very limited evidence from placebo-controlled randomised trials regarding the efficacy and potential harms of pharmacological interventions for prophylaxis of vestibular migraine. We only identified evidence for two of our interventions of interest (beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers) and all evidence was of low or very low certainty. Further research is necessary to identify whether these treatments are effective at improving symptoms and whether there are any harms associated with their use.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD015187
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2023

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