Dysautonomia: A Forgotten Condition - Part 1.Arq Bras Cardiol. 2021 04; 116(4):814-835.AB
Dysautonomia covers a range of clinical conditions with different characteristics and prognoses. They are classified as Reflex Syndromes, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Neurogenic Orthostatic Hypotension (nOH) and Carotid Sinus Hypersensitivity Syndrome. Reflex (vasovagal) syndromes will not be discussed in this article. Reflex (vasovagal) syndromes are mostly benign and usually occur in patients without an intrinsic autonomic nervous system (ANS) or heart disease. Therefore, they are usually studied separately. Cardiovascular Autonomic Neuropathy (CAN) is the term most currently used to define dysautonomia with impairment of the sympathetic and/or parasympathetic cardiovascular autonomic nervous system. It can be idiopathic, such as multisystemic atrophy or pure autonomic failure, or secondary to systemic pathologies such as diabetes mellitus, neurodegenerative diseases, Parkinson's disease, dementia syndromes, chronic renal failure, amyloidosis and it may also occur in the elderly. The presence of Cardiovascular Autonomic Neuropathy (CAN) implies greater severity and worse prognosis in various clinical situations. Detection of Orthostatic Hypotension (OH) is a late sign and means greater severity in the context of dysautonomia, defined as Neurogenic Orthostatic Hypotension (nOH). It must be differentiated from hypotension due to hypovolemia or medications, called non-neurogenic orthostatic hypotension (nnOH). OH can result from benign causes, such as acute, chronic hypovolemia or use of various drugs. However, these drugs may only reveal subclinical pictures of Dysautonomia. All drugs of patients with dysautonomic conditions should be reevaluated. Precise diagnosis of CAN and the investigation of the involvement of other organs or systems is extremely important in the clinical suspicion of pandysautonomia. In diabetics, in addition to age and time of disease, other factors are associated with a higher incidence of CAN, such poor glycemic control, hypertension, dyslipidemia and obesity. Among diabetic patients, 38-44% can develop Dysautonomia, with prognostic implications and higher cardiovascular mortality. In the initial stages of DM, autonomic dysfunction involves the parasympathetic system, then the sympathetic system and, later on, it presents as orthostatic hypotension. Valsalva, Respiratory and Orthostatic tests (30:15) are the gold standard methods for the diagnosis of CAN. They can be associated with RR Variability tests in the time domain, and mainly in the frequency domain, to increase the sensitivity (protocol of the 7 tests). These tests can detect initial or subclinical abnormalities and assess severity and prognosis. The Tilt Test should not be the test of choice for investigating CAN at an early stage, as it detects cases at more advanced stages. Tilt response with a dysautonomic pattern (gradual drop in blood pressure without increasing heart rate) may suggest CAN. Treatment of patients at moderate to advanced stages of dysautonomia is quite complex and often refractory, requiring specialized and multidisciplinary evaluation. There is no cure for most types of Dysautonomia at a late stage. NOH patients can progress with supine hypertension in more than 50% of the cases, representing a major therapeutic challenge. The immediate risk and consequences of OH should take precedence over the later risks of supine hypertension and values greater than 160/90 mmHg are tolerable. Sleeping with the head elevated (20-30 cm), not getting up at night, taking short-acting antihypertensive drugs for more severe cases, such as losartan, captopril, clonidine or nitrate patches, may be necessary and effective in some cases. Preventive measures such as postural care; good hydration; higher salt intake; use of compression stockings and abdominal straps; portioned meals; supervised physical activity, mainly sitting, lying down or exercising in the water are important treatment steps. Various drugs can be used for symptomatic nOH, especially fludrocortisone, midodrine and droxidopa, the latter not available in Brazil. The risk of exacerbation or triggering supine hypertension should be considered. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome represents a form of Dysautonomia and has been renamed as a systemic disease of exercise intolerance, with new diagnostic criteria: 1 - Unexplained fatigue, leading to occupational disability for more than 6 months; 2 - Feeling ill after exercising; 3 - Non-restorative sleep; 4 - One of the following findings: cognitive impairment or orthostatic intolerance. Several pathologies today have evolved with chronic fatigue, being called chronic diseases associated with chronic fatigue. Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), another form of presentation of dysautonomic syndromes, is characterized by sustained elevation of heart rate (HR) ≥30 bpm (≥40 bpm if <20 years) or HR ≥120 bpm, in the first 10 minutes in an orthostatic position or during the tilt test, without classical orthostatic hypotension associated. A slight decrease in blood pressure may occur. Symptoms appear or get worse in an orthostatic position, with dizziness, weakness, pre-syncope, palpitations, and other systemic symptoms being common.