Utility of Autonomic Function Tests to Differentiate Dementia with Lewy Bodies and Parkinson Disease with Dementia from Alzheimer Disease

Eur Neurol. 2018;79(1-2):27-32. doi: 10.1159/000484409. Epub 2017 Nov 13.


Objective: We studied autonomic disturbance in patients with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), Parkinson disease with dementia (PDD), Alzheimer disease (AD), to determine whether autonomic function tests can be used to distinguish these disorders.

Methods: Autonomic function was tested in 56 patients with DLB, 37 patients with PDD, and 59 patients with AD by using the sympathetic skin response, coefficient of variation in R-R interval, the head-up tilt test, serum norepinephrine concentration, and 123I-meta-iodobenzylguanidine cardiac scintigraphy. Symptoms of autonomic dysfunction, such as constipation, urinary symptoms, and orthostatic hypotension, were also noted.

Results: The groups did not differ on baseline characteristics other than those associated with Parkinsonism and dementia. All patients with DLB and PDD had some dysautonomia, whereas rates were much lower for patients with AD (19%). Significantly more DLB and PDD patients than AD patients showed abnormalities on autonomic function tests.

Conclusions: Autonomic function tests might be quite useful to distinguish DLB and PDD from AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Dementia with Lewy bodies; Parkinson disease with dementia; autonomic function tests.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis*
  • Tilt-Table Test