Context: Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and those with orthostatic intolerance share many symptoms, yet questions exist as to whether CFS patients have physiological evidence of orthostatic intolerance.
Objective: To determine if some CFS patients have increased rates of orthostatic hypotension, hypertension, tachycardia, or hypocapnia relative to age-matched controls.
Design: Assess blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, end tidal CO2 and visual analog scales for orthostatic symptoms when supine and when standing for 8 minutes without moving legs.
Setting: Referral practice and research center.
Participants: 60 women and 15 men with CFS and 36 women and 4 men serving as age matched controls with analyses confined to 62 patients and 35 controls showing either normal orthostatic testing or a physiological abnormal test.
Main outcome measures: Orthostatic tachycardia; orthostatic hypotension; orthostatic hypertension; orthostatic hypocapnia or combinations thereof.
Results: CFS patients had higher rates of abnormal tests than controls (53% vs 20%, p < .002), but rates of orthostatic tachycardia, orthostatic hypotension, and orthostatic hypertension did not differ significantly between patients and controls (11.3% vs 5.7%, 6.5% vs 2.9%, 19.4% vs 11.4%, respectively). In contrast, rates of orthostatic hypocapnia were significantly higher in CFS than in controls (20.6% vs 2.9%, p < .02). This CFS group reported significantly more feelings of illness and shortness of breath than either controls or CFS patients with normal physiological tests.
Conclusion: A substantial number of CFS patients have orthostatic intolerance in the form of orthostatic hypocapnia. This allows subgrouping of patients with CFS and thus reduces patient pool heterogeneity engendered by use of a clinical case definition.