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Saccular otoconia as a cause of Ménière's disease: hypothesis based on two theories

  • J Hornibrook (a1)

The cause of Ménière's disease remains enigmatic after 156 years. Schuknecht's rupture and potassium intoxication theory of attacks was based on histological studies.


This paper aimed to: present the most contemporary evidence indicating that ruptures do not usually occur, and discuss the possibility that detached saccular otoconia are the main cause of Ménière's disease; and to establish an unequivocal definition of the age of Ménière's disease onset.


The paper reviews the electrophysiological basis of the Gibson–Arenberg drainage theory used to explain vertigo attacks. The current, limited knowledge of the likely fate of detached saccular otoconia is discussed.


Electrophysiological studies during attacks do not support endolymph ruptures, but rather endolymph flowing in one direction and then in the opposite direction. Age of onset for Ménière's disease parallels that for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.


The similarity of age of onset spectrum for Ménière's disease and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo raises the possibility that the two conditions have the same fundamental cause.

Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Dr Jeremy Hornibrook, 2 Riccarton Avenue, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand E-mail: Fax: +64 3 3640 273
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Dr J Hornibrook takes responsibility for the integrity of the content of the paper

Presented at the Prosper Ménière Society Meeting, 12–18 March 2016, Zell im Zillertal, Austria, and at the Politzer Society Vertigo Academy International Meeting, 2–4 March 2017, Mumbai, India.

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