Vestibular therapy to reduce falls in people with Alzheimer’s disease: study protocol for a pilot randomized controlled trial

Lekha V. Yesantharao, Paul Rosenberg, Esther Oh, Jeannie Leoutsakos, Cynthia A. Munro, Yuri Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Falls are highly common in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD); around two-thirds of AD patients fall annually. Fall events are major drivers of injury, early institutionalization, and shorter survival. Balance and mobility impairment are among the most important fall risk factors in AD patients. Vestibular therapy (VT) is an effective rehabilitation intervention in improving balance and fall risk through vestibular function, but not often used in AD. We want to evaluate the feasibility of using VT to reduce falls and improve balance function in patients with AD and drive use of an existing, potentially beneficial therapy in a patient population whose high level of vestibular deficits is currently unaddressed. Methods: The proposed pilot clinical trial will be a parallel-group randomized controlled trial. Patients with a diagnosis of mild-moderate AD, age ≥ 60, and the presence of a caregiver will be recruited from the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center. Eligible patients will be offered vestibular testing. Patients with vestibular loss will be offered participation in the VT trial. One-hundred AD patients with vestibular loss will be enrolled and randomized 1:1 into the control and intervention arms of the trial. All patients will undergo baseline balance and cognitive assessment, followed by 8 weeks of active control therapy or VT, consisting of ~25-min office sessions with a vestibular therapist. Patients will be tracked for falls and undergo follow-up balance and cognitive assessment at 8 and 52 weeks (1 year) to assess the potential short-term and longer-term effects, respectively, of VT on balance and cognition. The main outcomes of this trial are falls, balance (using the Berg Balance Scale and the Timed Up and Go test), and cognition (using the clock drawing test, the Card Rotations test, the Money Road Map test, and the triangle completion task). Discussion: As the population ages and the number of individuals with AD in the US grows to a projected 14 million in 2050, managing falls in AD will continue to grow as a critical public health concern; this trial assesses feasibility of a potential solution. Trial registration: ClinicalTrial.Gov identifier — NCT03799991. Registered 01 August 2019.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number167
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Fall-related injury
  • Vestibular rehabilitation
  • Vestibular therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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