Orthostatic intolerance and gastrointestinal motility in adolescents with nausea and abdominal pain

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2008 Mar;46(3):285-8. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e318145a70c.


Objective: To describe the relationships between gastric emptying, autonomic function, and postural tachycardia in adolescent patients with nausea and/or abdominal discomfort. It was hypothesized that patients with both gastrointestinal symptoms and symptoms of orthostatic intolerance are more likely to show abnormal tilt table results and delayed gastric emptying.

Patients and methods: A retrospective review was conducted of adolescent patients who came to a pediatric referral center because of nausea and dyspepsia and who subsequently underwent both autonomic reflex screening and gastric emptying testing. Patients with a heart rate change of 30 or more beats per minute on the heads-up tilt table test were assigned to the postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) group (n = 21), and those with a heart rate change of fewer than 30 beats per minute on the heads-up tilt table test were assigned to the non-POTS group (n = 10).

Results: There was no significant difference between the POTS and non-POTS groups with regard to presenting symptoms (P > 0.05). Overall, 13 (42%) individuals had abnormal gastric emptying results (delayed in 6, accelerated in 7), but gastric emptying scores were similar between the POTS and non-POTS groups. Furthermore, there was no correlation between an individual's gastric emptying results at 1, 2, and 4 hours and that person's heart rate change on HUT (r = -0.05, -0.15, and -0.19).

Conclusions: Although altered gastric emptying and postural tachycardia are common in a referral population of adolescents with nausea and/or abdominal discomfort, the clinical presentation was not predictive of test results. Furthermore, delayed gastric emptying was not correlated with the current definition of postural tachycardia.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Adolescent
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Dizziness / etiology
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Tachycardia / physiopathology*
  • Tilt-Table Test*