NYMC Faculty Publications

The Preponderance of Initial Orthostatic Hypotension in Postural Tachycardia Syndrome

Journal Title

Journal of Applied Physiology

First Page


Last Page


Document Type


Publication Date





Reduced systolic/diastolic blood pressure (BP) by >40/20 mmHg defines initial orthostatic hypotension (IOH). Rapid resolution of hypotension and lightheadedness follows, but tachycardia may be prolonged. We aimed to examine IOH in controls and patients with postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) using indices of spontaneous fluctuations of heart rate (HR) and systolic BP as measures of cardiac baroreflex differences. We recruited otherwise healthy IOH patients without POTS (n = 20, 16 ± 3 yr), healthy volunteers (n = 32, 17 ± 3 yr), and POTS patients (n = 39, 17 ± 4 yr). Subjects were instrumented for electrocardiography and beat-to-beat BP. After 10 min supine, subjects stood for 5 min. Following supine recovery, subjects underwent 70° head-up tilt for 10 min to test for POTS. BP, HR, and time, referenced to standing, were measured at events during standing: minimum BP, BP recovery, peak HR, HR minimum, and steady state. Baseline HR and BP were higher in POTS compared with healthy groups. IOH occurred in 13% of controls and 51% of POTS patients. The BP minimum was lower in POTS. Parasympathetic modulation of cardiac baroreflex was decreased in all POTS and control-IOH subjects. Sympathetic indices were increased. Events following BP minimum occurred progressively later in all POTS and control-IOH subjects compared with non-IOH controls. IOH is more frequent in POTS than in controls with a lower minimum BP. POTS has markedly reduced heart rate variability and baroreflex, indicating reduced HR buffering of BP. POTS-IOH and control-IOH subjects had similar peak HR despite decreased minimum BP in POTS. IOH data indicate modest parasympathetic and cardiovagal baroreflex deficits in control-IOH subjects. Parasympathetic deficits are more severe in all POTS patients.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Significant initial orthostatic hypotension (IOH) occurs in ~50% of postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) patients and 13% of controls. Heart rate and blood pressure recovery are prolonged in IOH sustaining lightheadedness; IOH is more prevalent and severe in POTS. Altered cerebral blood flow and cardiorespiratory regulation are more prevalent in POTS. Altered heart rate variability and baroreflex gain may cause nearly instantaneous lightheadedness in POTS. IOH alone fails to confer a strong probability of POTS.

This document is currently not available here.