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The effects of water ingestion on orthostatic hypotension in two groups of chronic autonomic failure: multiple system atrophy and pure autonomic failure


Background: Oral ingestion of water increases seated blood pressure in patients with chronic autonomic failure by mechanisms that remain unclear. As orthostatic hypotension is common in chronic autonomic failure, and is not always adequately controlled by medication, the potential benefits of water ingestion on standing blood pressure were studied in two types of autonomic failure: multiple system atrophy (MSA), in which the lesion is central and pre-ganglionic, and pure autonomic failure (PAF), in which the lesion is post-ganglionic.

Methods: In 14 patients with autonomic failure (seven PAF and seven MSA) standing blood pressure and heart rate were measured before, and 15 and 35 minutes after ingestion of 480 ml distilled water. Patients remained seated for 15 minutes after water ingestion, with beat to beat cardiovascular indices measured with the Portapres II device with subsequent Modelflow analysis.

Results: Standing prior to water ingestion caused a significant fall in blood pressure in all patients. After water ingestion there was a rise in seated blood pressure. Seated and standing blood pressure at 15 and 35 minutes after water ingestion was significantly higher than before water, with an improvement in orthostatic symptoms. The time to first significant rise in seated blood pressure occurred at 5 minutes post water ingestion in PAF and at 13 minutes in MSA. These increases were accompanied by increases in total peripheral resistance, reaching significance by 5 minutes in PAF and 13 minutes in MSA. There were no significant changes in cardiac output, stroke volume, or ejection fraction.

Conclusions: Water is thus beneficial in improving standing BP in AF, acting within 15 minutes in both MSA and PAF. The earlier onset of the pressor effect in PAF may reflect the differing lesion site and underlying pathophysiology between these conditions.

  • BP, blood pressure
  • CO, cardiac output
  • DPB, diastolic BP
  • MSA, multiple system atrophy
  • OH, orthostatic hypotension
  • PAF, pure autonomic failure
  • SBP, systolic blood pressure
  • SV, stroke volume
  • TPR, total peripheral resistance
  • multiple system atrophy
  • pure autonomic failure
  • water
  • orthostatic hypotension

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