Dysautonomia in Parkinson's disease: neurocardiological abnormalities

Lancet Neurol. 2003 Nov;2(11):669-76. doi: 10.1016/s1474-4422(03)00555-6.


Symptoms of abnormal autonomic-nervous-system function occur commonly in Parkinson's disease (PD). Orthostatic hypotension in patients with parkinsonism has been thought to be a side-effect of treatment with levodopa, a late stage in the disease progression, or, if prominent and early with respect to disordered movement, an indication of a different disease, such as multiple system atrophy. Instead, patients with PD and orthostatic hypotension have clear evidence for baroreflex failure and loss of sympathetic innervation, most noticeably in the heart. By contrast, patients with multiple system atrophy, which is difficult to distinguish clinically from PD, have intact cardiac sympathetic innervation. Post-mortem studies confirm this distinction. Because PD involves postganglionic sympathetic noradrenergic lesions, the disease seems to be not only a movement disorder with dopamine loss in the nigrostriatal system of the brain, but also a dysautonomia, with norepinephrine loss in the sympathetic nervous system of the heart.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Heart Diseases / complications
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / complications
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / physiopathology
  • Parkinson Disease / complications*
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology