Key Points about a Fistula Test

  • A fistula test is used to examine a patient who has recurrent vertigo.
  • While more modern tests are used to diagnose inner ear damage, a fistula test may be performed as well.
  • During the test, pressure is applied to determine if your eye movement changes. If your doctor sees abnormal eye movement, you likely have damage to the inner ear.
  • A fistula test is usually performed as a part of a larger diagnostic plan. Your doctor will perform a physical exam, take a medical history, and perform a fistula test. Your doctor may confirm the diagnosis with an MRI or CT scan.


A fistula test helps your doctor diagnose a perilymphatic fistula or other ENT conditions such as superior canal dehiscence.

A perilymphatic fistula is a tear in one of the membranes separating the middle and inner ear.

During the test, your doctor is trying to reproduce symptoms and signs of an abnormal connection between the labyrinth and surrounding spaces. While your doctor applies pressure to each ear, your eye movements are being recorded.

If pressure sensitivity is found, you may have a perilymph fistula or other related ENT conditions.

Candidates for a fistula test

Your audiologist or ENT doctor may order a fistula test if he or she suspects you have a perilymphatic fistula or other ENT condition such as superior canal dehiscence.

A fistula test is often used in conjunction with other diagnostic testing on patients who have recurrent vertigo.

Expectations during a fistula test

During the test, your doctor will use a medical device to apply pressure to your ears. You may wear a special type of goggles that track eye movement. Your doctor will observe the eyes for approximately 30 seconds. If you have a fistula, your doctor will notice abnormal eye movement. If your doctor does not see any abnormal eye movement, he or she may increase the pressure slightly.

Recovery after a fistula test

Your doctor will use a fistula test as a part of the diagnostic process to determine if you have a perilymphatic fistula. If your doctor saw abnormal eye movement, in the fistula test, he or she may order a MRI or CT scan to confirm the diagnosis.

If you are diagnosed with a perilymphatic fistula, there are a variety of treatment options depending on your symptoms. Your doctor may start by recommending bed rest or restricting your activity level for one to two weeks. If bed rest alone is not effective other treatments may include a blood patch injection. This involves injecting a patient's blood into your middle ear.

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