Head-spinning Meniere’s disease may have met its match 

 June 16, 2011

By  Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Mechanicsville, Virginia — Over the last year or so I’ve seen and helped quite a few people with dizziness, vertigo, and/or head spinning.  But chiropractic isn’t always the solution.  One of my patients forwarded this link to me.  I can’t officially endorse it, but I’m not alarmed by it either.  Just thought it might be nice for Meniere’s sufferers to know there are things like this out there.  I’ve copied the article below.

The Body Odd – Head-spinning Meniere’s disease may have met its match.

By JoNel Aleccia

Dizzy doesn’t begin to describe Gene Pugnetti’s bouts of vertigo.

For at least four years, the 56-year-old Yakima, Wash., man has suffered repeated episodes of stomach-lurching, head-spinning disruptions in his equilibrium, attacks so severe that they require him to sit down, cover his eyes and wait an hour – until the Valium kicks in.

Just since February, Pugnetti has endured 45 such spells, all caused by what doctors diagnosed as a severe case of Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that erodes victims’ hearing and leaves them vulnerable to unexpected vertigo. The most recent bout was three weeks ago.

“It was pretty bad,” said Pugnetti, an information technology worker, who has 65 percent hearing loss in his right ear. “Just, bang!, you’re focusing on something and then all of a sudden you can’t focus on anything.”

Pugnetti has tried almost everything to quell the problem, which affects some 615,000 people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. Drugs, diet, exercise and even an implanted shunt failed to do the trick.

On Thursday, though, Pugnetti became the first person to be implanted with a new device aimed at stopping the vertigo as soon as it starts. Dr. Jay Rubinstein and Dr. James Phillips of the University of Washington’s otolaryngology-head and neck surgery department, assisted by a team of experts, chose Pugnetti as the first member of a 10-person clinical trial to test an invention four years in the making.

It’s the “UW/Nucleus Vestibular Implant,” a clunky name for the behind-the-ear device that’s basically a revamped version of a cochlear implant, an electronic aid typically used to help deaf people hear. In Meniere’s, the disease short-circuits the power supply that allows balance, Rubinstein said. The new device restores it by sending electrical impulses to electrodes implanted in the bony ear, disrupting the vertigo.

Once it’s turned on, in about three weeks, Pugnetti will be able to don the device at the first sign of dizziness, disarming symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

It won’t eliminate the Meniere’s, for which there is no certain cause or cure, but it should get rid of the worst effect. If the clinical trial is a success, the device that was tested in monkeys and approved in June by the Food and Drug Administration could find a wide audience of Meniere’s victims, says Pugnetti, who has no qualms about being first.

“The fact is, there are a whole lot of people who are out there suffering,” he said. “Just talking about this procedure to them gives them hope. And that’s a big deal.”


Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Dr. Stover grew up in Richmond. He has been married to his wife Andrea since 2000 and they make their home in Mechanicsville with their children, Avery and Garnett.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

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