This HealthDay story reports on a study published in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology where researchers claim to have discovered a new form of vertigo, a condition causing dizziness. They found a small subgroup within a population of vertigo patients whose response differed from those of patients with known forms of the condition.
The story is barely more than a rewrite of the news release sent out by the AAN. With no independent sources, it doesn’t critically explore the question of whether this is really a new diagnosis, or only a subgroup of vertigo patients who had a particular finding on a special examination.
People suffering from vertigo can have symptoms ranging from miserable to completely debilitating. And since vertigo can have various causes, treatments can vary, as can their effectiveness. The story says that one in three persons with this new form of the condition responded to an unnamed medication. For readers to actually benefit from this story, they needed much more information, including the name of the meds that worked.
While this story focused on what researchers believed is a new form of vertigo, they did mention that it could be treated by an unnamed medication. The story should have named the medication, and the cost.
The story fails to provide clear information on benefits. It does effectively quantify the number of patients in the study thought to have this new form of vertigo — 35 — and also cited how many patients with it who appeared to benefit from the unnamed medication — one-third of 20. It’s worth noting that those suspected of having this new form of vertigo comprise only 10 percent of those recruited in the study, and only two percent of the total recruited were successfully treated by the unnamed medication.
The story focuses on the diagnosis of a suspected new form of vertigo so possible false diagnoses are a possible harm. And, the unnamed medication likely carries side effects.
The story provides little about the quality of the evidence behind this diagnosis, and the treatment for it. For starters, it would have been helpful to have more information about how this “study” was conducted–was it randomized and controlled? What were the limitations?
There is no pathophysiological or biological basis for the disease and only the vaguest of information about the disease as being defined simply by an abnormal test. The story should have provided some counter-balance to this viewpoint — is it really a new diagnosis?
The story provides only one source — a member of the research team — and no independent sources. It doesn’t disclose who funded the study, either.
The story describes a proposed new diagnosis so suggesting alternatives doesn’t apply.
The mechanism for diagnosis of this supposed new form of vertigo is explained by both the news story and the original paper. It requires some sort of audio-visual equipment to record eye movements, and there was discussion of a non-named medication providing relief. There is not enough information to fully inform the reader about the availability of getting screened for this type of vertigo, nor how to treat it.
The diagnosis of a new form of a medical condition, if confirmed by later research, seems novel enough to justify news coverage.
This story seems to rely heavily on information from a news release. It lifts a quote directly from an American Academy of Neurology news release–without attribution–and appears to have borrowed several descriptions with only limited rewriting.
For example, this quote that appears in the story:
“These conditions can be difficult to diagnose and quite debilitating for people, so it’s exciting to be able to discover this new diagnosis of a condition that may respond to treatment,” said Dr. Ji-Soo Kim, a researcher at Seoul National University in South Korea.
Also appears in the news release.