New Vestibular Specialist Program at Missouri Delta

Missouri Delta audiologist Zach Shaw, who is a vestibular specialist, examines a patients eyes as Sikeston ReStart physical therapist Chance White, who has a doctorate in physical therapy, watches as they assess a patient at the ReBalance and Dizziness Center in Sikeston. (Leonna Heuring/Standard Democrat)

By Leonna Heuring, The Standard-Democrat

SIKESTON — A new Sikeston-based center used to evaluate and treat vestibular and balance disorders is the only of its kind in Southeast Missouri and one of only three in Missouri.

In August, Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston introduced the Missouri Delta ReBalance and Dizziness Center. The new program involves audiologists and physical therapists who have advanced training and specialize in the evaluation and treatment of patients with vertigo, dizziness, mobility issues, and balance disorders.

“So many people are dizzy, but they think it’s normal and that they have to live with it,” said Missouri Delta audiologist Zach Shaw who is a vestibular specialist.

The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements.

“The ultimate goal is fall prevention, this can keep patients from causing injuries to the body and head, and can sometimes worsen a present vestibular pathology,” Shaw said. “We want people to know there’s no reason a patient should have to live their lives with dizziness or vertigo, and there are things we can do to fix it.”

There is also a vital role of inner ear function in academic performance of children. Helping to identify these deficits is simple and could change a child’s life for the better. Vestibular and balance disorders are very treatable and beatable for people of all ages,” Shaw said.

“That’s one of the biggest struggles — to find out why they’re dizzy,” Shaw said.

Essentially, Shaw said, the testing offered through the ReBalance and Dizziness Center makes the treatment more effective for the patients.

“Before (testing was available through the new Center), if a provider was trying to guess what’s going on with a patient – either they would prescribe medications to place a Band-Aid on the problem or provide a type of physical maneuver (Canalith Repositioning Maneuver) that can only treat one specific vestibular disorder. With this testing, now we can identify exactly where the dizziness or vertigo is coming from and tailor therapy back to these test results. We have very high success rates,” Shaw said.

Also, there’s a misconception that imaging tests can detect all vestibular and balance disorders.

“A lot of people have a stigma that an MRI catches everything, this is only true for physical changes or masses but not physiologic ones, vestibular testing we are providing at the Missouri Delta ReBalance and Dizziness Center is the only way to capture the physiologic function of each individual organ in the inner ear. This highly impacts treatment options and success rates of those options,” Shaw said.

The test conducted through the ReBalance and Dizziness Center is a functional, comprehensive test that is the only way to capture a true vestibular deficit, Shaw said.

“Essentially, we are provoking the patient inner ear system during the testing so we can measure exactly what’s happening while it’s happening,” the audiologist said.

Then treatment and/or therapy can be properly determined, he said.

The road to bring the Center to Sikeston has been a goal for a while now.

Physical therapist Chance White, who has a doctorate in physical therapy, has worked at Sikeston ReStart for a while and has always had a longtime passion for treating vestibular disorders.

So when Shaw joined Missouri Delta, the dream to have a balance center in this area began taking shape.

It had also been a long-term goal for administration since White talked about it, and once Shaw was hired, they were able to move forward, Shaw said.

Shaw and White met a year ago in October to discuss and see what the possibilities were, and they presented plans to MDMC administration in January. Missouri Delta Foundation contributed funds to get the program started.

“All the stars lined up and the opportunity was there, and we were able to get the program started,” Shaw said. “Chance has been very successful in helping people with dizziness. This testing takes the guess work out of Chance’s treatment and is now more efficient in helping people fight back against dizziness and vertigo.”

Patients interested in utilizing the Center should consult with their physicians who can refer them for testing at the Center.

In addition to pinpointing the cause of patients’ balance and dizziness issues, the ReBalance and Dizziness Center provides service to a large area, Shaw said.

Sikeston is the closest place in Southeast Missouri to now offer this testing and services. Shaw noted there are two clinics in the Kansas City area, but the close relationships with specialist physicians at Missouri Delta such as Neurology, Cardiology, Gerontology, ENT and many more, is what forms a collaborative approach for each individual patient. This is what sets us apart from the rest.

“It really has to do with the type of testing and specialists we can offer, and there is no one who does that type of testing in Southeast Missouri,” Shaw said. “This is something these patients really do need.”