The Interconnections of Mal de Débarquement Syndrome and Vestibular Migraine

Shin C. Beh, Hsueh Sheng Chiang, Collin Sanderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis: Mal de débarquement syndrome (MDDS) is characterized by a persistent rocking sensation, as though on a boat. It may occur following exposure to passive motion (motion-triggered MDDS [MT-MDDS]), or spontaneously (spontaneous-onset MDDS [SO-MDDS]). This study investigated the characteristics of MDDS patients with vestibular migraine (MDDS-VM) to those without (MDDS-O). Study Design: Retrospective review. Methods: Retrospective, single-center study of 62 patients with MDDS. Clinical characteristics, Dizziness Handicap Inventory (DHI), Migraine Disability Assessment Score (MIDAS), job impact, and optimal treatment(s) were studied. Results: There were 23 MDDS-O (19 women), and 39 MDDS-VM (35 women) patients. Comparisons between MDDS-VM and MDDS-O showed significant differences in age of onset (41 vs. 52 years, P =.005), interictal visually induced dizziness (89.7% vs. 30.4%, P <.001), interictal head motion-induced dizziness (87.2% vs. 47.8%, P =.001), other vestibular sensations (59% vs. 13%, P <.001), interictal aural symptoms (25.6% vs. 0%, P =.008), number of interictal symptoms (4.3 vs. 2.3, P <.001), total DHI score (54.9 vs. 38.1, P =.005), DHI-P (physical domain) score (16.1 vs. 10, P =.004), DHI-F (functional domain) score (20.9 vs. 15.7, P =.016 MIDAS (4.6 vs. 32, P =.002), and job resignations (23.2% vs. 5%, P =.016). On the other hand, between-group comparisons for MT-MDDS and SO-MDDS did not reveal any significant differences whatsoever. For optimal treatment, venlafaxine was the most used (27.3%) in all groups. For MDDS-VM, antiepileptic drugs and migraine preventive vitamins were also useful in relieving symptoms. Conclusions: MDDS-VM patients appear to be more disabled than MDDS-O, in terms of severity of dizziness, job impact, and number of symptoms, but have good potential for improvement, particularly with migraine prophylactic treatment. Level of Evidence: 3 Laryngoscope, 131:E1653–E1661, 2021.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1653-E1661
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • dizziness
  • mal de débarquement syndrome
  • migraine
  • vertigo
  • vestibular migraine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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