HINTS vs. ABCD2 in Dizziness

Dizziness in the Emergency Department sends everyone down their favorite diagnostic algorithm, with outcomes ranging from utterly benign to impending permanent disability.  I’ve covered the repurposing of the ABCD2 score for risk-stratification in dizziness before, showing it had some utility in predicting posterior circulation stroke.

However, unsurprisingly, these authors demonstrate examination maneuvers specifically targeted at evaluating cerebellar function outperform risk-stratification.  The HINTS (head impulse, nystagmus type, test of skew) evaluation compared with the ABCD2 (age, blood pressure, clinical features, duration, diabetes) in a convenience sample of 190 prospectively collected patients with acute vestibular syndrome.  Of these 190 patients, 124 had a central cause for their vertigo (stroke, hemorrhage, space-occupying lesion).  The sensitivity and specificity of the ABCD2 score in predicting a central lesion was 58.1% and 60.6%, respectively, while the HINTS score resulted in 96.8% and 98.5%, respectively.

It’s a bit of a straw-man comparison – considering the ABCD2 score was never designed to detect posterior circulation stroke, only to affect probability estimates for cerebrovascular disease.  The prevalence of disease in this sample probably also leads to an overestimation of the specificity of the HINTS exam, but it has otherwise been found to have very good test characteristics.

Visit EMCrit for more information and video footage of the HINTS test, if you’re not already using it.

“HINTS Outperforms ABCD2 to Screen for Stroke in Acute Continuous Vertigo and Dizziness”