Nicergoline in the treatment of dizziness in elderly patients. A review.

G. Felisati, O. Pignataro, A. Di Girolamo, E. Bruno, M. Alessandrini, G. Guidetti, D. Monzani, A. M. Beldi, E. Mira, M. Benazzo, E. Pallestrini, G. Caligo, A. Casani, A. Battaglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In elderly patients, dizziness occurs very frequently with significant effects on the patient's life. Its frequency increases with age, and may arise from a variety of causes.Chronic dysequilibrium in elderly patients is most probably related to disturbances within the central nervous system, due either to altered neuronal functions or to an underlying vascular disease. Nicergoline, a drug used in the treatment of cognitive disturbances in geriatric patients, improves dizziness in elderly demented and non-demented patients. In a double blind,placebo controlled trial the drug improved (i) the severity of symptoms, measured by the dizziness assessment rating scale (DARS), (ii) the overall clinical conditions revealed by global impression scale, and (iii) the perceived quality of life estimated by the dizziness handicap inventory (DHI). These results indicate a possible positive effect also on posturographic measures. Moreover, the improvement occurred at no expense of the established strategy of postural control suggesting that the effect is mediated by a substitute compensatory mechanism allowing the patient to preserve consolidated postural strategies.The results of previous open clinical studies in about 3000 patients are in agreement with those findings. Overall, severity of symptoms decreased by 68 % (57 % in the control study). Globally, the results indicate a beneficial effect of nicergoline on symptoms related to balance disorders of central origin. Animal studies show that the drug displays a broad spectrum of actions on cellular and molecular mechanisms. Moreover, animal research specifically aimed at vestibular pathophysiology has revealed that nicergoline improves vestibular compensation in models of vestibular lesion. Chronic treatment with nicergoline improved the time-course of behavioral recovery in old rats after hemi-labyrinthectomy and counteracted the regulation of cholinergic receptors observed after lesion in old rats. Nicergoline interacts at several levels by various mechanisms, from the molecular level to cognitive function, probably enhancing spontaneous plasticity phenomena underlying the central vestibular compensation. This effect is not dependent from the interaction with a single-transmitter-identified neural pathway, but from anatomical, functional and neurochemical synergistic adjustments in several brain areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-170
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of gerontology and geriatrics. Supplement
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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