Clinical neurophysiology of postural tachycardia syndrome

Handb Clin Neurol. 2019:161:429-445. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-64142-7.00066-7.


Postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is one of several disorders of orthostatic intolerance (OI). It is defined by the development of symptoms of cerebral hypoperfusion or sympathetic activation and a sustained heart rate increment of 30 beats/min or more (40 beats/min for teenagers) within 10min of standing or head-up tilt in the absence of orthostatic hypotension; the standing heart rate is often 120 beats/min or higher. POTS is approximately five times more common in women than men. This heterogeneous syndrome is caused by several pathophysiologic mechanisms (limited autonomic neuropathy, hyperadrenergic state, hypovolemia, venous pooling, deconditioning), which are not mutually exclusive. Anxiety and somatic hypervigilance play significant roles in POTS. Common comorbidities include visceral pain and dysmotility, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, migraine, joint hypermobility, mitral valve prolapse, and inappropriate sinus tachycardia. Patients with suspected POTS should undergo comprehensive cardiac and neurologic examinations and autonomic and laboratory tests to determine the most likely pathophysiologic basis of OI. The objectives of POTS management are to (1) increase the time that patients can stand, perform daily activities, and exercise and (2) avoid syncope. Management involves nonpharmacologic (fluid and salt loading, physical countermaneuvers, compression garments, exercise training) and pharmacologic (β-blockers, pyridostigmine, fludrocortisone, midodrine) approaches.

Keywords: Autonomic neuropathy; Chronic fatigue syndrome; Deconditioning; Ehlers–Danlos syndrome; Hyperadrenergic; Inappropriate sinus tachycardia; Mitral valve prolapse; Orthostatic intolerance; Postural tachycardia syndrome; Venous pooling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome / physiopathology*