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CHEO doctor develops iPhone app to treat vertigo

A doctor at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario has developed an iPhone application to treat a form of vertigo or dizziness.

Dr. Matt Bromowich has spent years trying to determine a solution to treat an inner ear problem that makes people feel dizzy.

Bromowich, who is an ear, nose and throat surgeon, has spent more than five years trying to find a treatment that works every time it is applied.

The problem? Small crystals get inside the inner ear. When those crystals move, it causes people to feel dizzy.

However, if you move your head in a precise series of steps, patients can move the crystals out of their ear and stop the dizziness. The solution works for what is called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BBPV.

The condition affects about 40 per cent of the population as they move beyond the age of 60. Age is the most common cause of the condition.

"What the application is going to do is tell me how to move the head in order to move particles of material that are in the ear," said Dr. Bromwich.

He says iPhones work well to treat the condition because the phone is able to determine a change in position.

How it works? The patient places the iPhone on his or her forehead, and the doctor starts the app. The program then directs the doctor through the proper steps, making sure the angle of the head movement is exactly right and is done at the correct pace. Essentially, the iPhone app is used as the doctor's guide.

If the patient is in the wrong position, the phone will beep. The whole process only takes a couple of minutes.

"It really is astonishing when you find the patient has been living with this condition for months or years and I tell them after the two-minute treatment that you are cured it really is phenomenal for both the doctor and the patient," said Dr. Bromwich.

"The condition may well come back after several months, but the same treatment can provide the same relief. In the past, patients might have to see several doctors before someone would administer the treatment."

Dr. Bromwich previously used an earlier approach where patients would wear a baseball cap that had two plastic tubes attached to it. A small ball was placed inside the tubes, and patients would have to turn their heads to move the ball. The end result was the same.

However, while the hat product costs $140, the iPhone application costs $15.

Bromwich believes this may be the first real treatment method loaded on a smartphone, and he already has plans to improve it. He says with more doctors using smartphones, the devices can become another way to help doctors treat patients.


With a report from CTV Ottawa's Paul Brent
Read More: CTV news
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