, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 35-42

Fludrocortisone and sleeping in the head-up position limit the postural decrease in cardiac output in autonomic failure

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Abstract

Treatment with head-up tilt sleeping and low-dose fludrocortisone effectively minimizes orthostatic symptoms and increases orthostatic blood pressure in patients with neurogenic orthostatic hypotension. The aim of the present study was to examine whether the improvement in orthostatic blood pressure during combined treatment with low-dose fludrocortisone and nocturnal head-up tilt in patients with neurogenic orthostatic hypotension can be attributed to expansion of plasma volume or to increased total peripheral resistance.

The effects of a 3-week treatment with fludrocortisone and nocturnal head-up tilting on the postural changes in arterial pressure, heart rate, and cardiac output (pulse contour) were evaluated in eight consecutive patients with orthostatic hypotension.

The period during which the patients were able to remain in the standing position without orthostatic complaints increased minimally from 3 to 10 minutes. The decrease in arterial pressure after 1 minute of standing—(means with standard deviations in parentheses) systolic, 49 (20) mm Hg; diastolic, 18 (11) mm Hg—before treatment was produced by a greater than normal decrease in cardiac output: 37% (10%) in patients with neurogenic orthostatic hypotension versus-14% (8%) in control subjects. Treatment increased upright arterial pressure from 83 (19) mm Hg systolic and 55 (13) mm Hg diastolic to 114 (22) mm Hg systolic and 60 (16) mm Hg diastolic by limiting the decrease in cardiac output. Body weight increased but hematocrit did not change. Leg pressure-volume relationship decreased in the two patients studied. The responses of plasma renin activity and aldosterone to orthostatic stress prior to treatment were subnormal and became even lower after treatment.

The improvement in upright blood pressure in orthostatic hypotension during treatment with fludrocortisone and nocturnal head-up sleeping is the result of a reduction in the orthostatic decrease in cardiac output. Preliminary data suggest that the expanded body fluid volume is allocated to the perivascular space rather than to the intravascular space.