Initial orthostatic hypotension: review of a forgotten condition

Clin Sci (Lond). 2007 Feb;112(3):157-65. doi: 10.1042/CS20060091.


Several studies have shown that standing up is a frequent (3-10%) trigger of loss of consciousness both in young and old subjects. An exaggerated transient BP (blood pressure) fall upon standing is the underlying cause. IOH (initial orthostatic hypotension) is defined as a transient BP decrease within 15 s after standing, >40 mmHg SBP (systolic BP) and/or >20 mmHg DBP (diastolic BP) with symptoms of cerebral hypoperfusion. It differs distinctly from typical orthostatic hypotension (i.e. BP decrease >20 mmHg SBP and/or >10 mmHg DBP after 3 min of standing) as the BP decrease is transient. Only continuous beat-to-beat BP measurement during an active standing-up manoeuvre can document this condition. As IOH is only associated with active rising, passive tilting is of no diagnostic value. The pathophysiology of IOH is thought to be a temporal mismatch between cardiac output and vascular resistance. The marked decrease of vascular resistance during rising is similar to that observed at the onset of leg exercise and is absent during head-up tilting. It is attributed to vasodilatation in the working muscle through local mechanisms. Standing up causes an initial increase in venous return through the effects of contraction of leg and abdominal muscles. The consequent sudden increase in right atrial pressure may contribute to the fall in systemic vascular resistance through a reflex effect. This review alerts clinicians and clinician scientists to a common, yet often neglected, condition that occurs only upon an active change of posture and discusses its epidemiology, pathophysiology and management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Output
  • Humans
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / complications
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / diagnosis
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / epidemiology
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / physiopathology*
  • Posture
  • Syncope / etiology
  • Vascular Resistance