Autonomic dysfunction in 'long COVID': rationale, physiology and management strategies

Clin Med (Lond). 2021 Jan;21(1):e63-e67. doi: 10.7861/clinmed.2020-0896. Epub 2020 Nov 26.


The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused unprecedented morbidity, mortality and global disruption. Following the initial surge of infections, focus shifted to managing the longer-term sequelae of illness in survivors. 'Post-acute COVID' (known colloquially as 'long COVID') is emerging as a prevalent syndrome. It encompasses a plethora of debilitating symptoms (including breathlessness, chest pain, palpitations and orthostatic intolerance) which can last for weeks or more following mild illness. We describe a series of individuals with symptoms of 'long COVID', and we posit that this condition may be related to a virus- or immune-mediated disruption of the autonomic nervous system resulting in orthostatic intolerance syndromes. We suggest that all physicians should be equipped to recognise such cases, appreciate the symptom burden and provide supportive management. We present our rationale for an underlying impaired autonomic physiology post-COVID-19 and suggest means of management.

Keywords: COVID-19; dizziness; dysautonomia; long COVID; orthostatic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / therapy
  • Disease Management*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Pandemics*
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Survival Rate / trends