Salt supplementation is a common non-pharmacological approach to the management of recurrent orthostatic syncope or presyncope, particularly for patients with vasovagal syncope (VVS) or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), although there is limited consensus on the optimal dosage, formulation and duration of treatment. Accordingly, we reviewed the evidence for the use of salt supplementation to reduce susceptibility to syncope or presyncope in patients with VVS and POTS. We found that short-term (~3 months) salt supplementation improves susceptibility to VVS and associated symptoms, with little effect on supine blood pressure. In patients with VVS, salt supplementation is associated with increases in plasma volume, and an increase in the time taken to provoke a syncopal event during orthostatic tolerance testing, with smaller orthostatic heart rate increases, enhanced peripheral vascular responses to orthostatic stress, and improved cerebral autoregulation. Responses were most pronounced in those with a baseline sodium excretion <170 mmol/day. Salt supplementation also improved symptoms, plasma volume, and orthostatic responses in patients with POTS. Salt supplementation should be considered for individuals with recurrent and troublesome episodes of VVS or POTS without cardiovascular comorbidities, particularly if their typical urinary sodium excretion is low, and their supine blood pressure is not elevated. The efficacy of the response, in terms of the improvement in subjective and objective markers of orthostatic intolerance, and any potential deleterious effect on supine blood pressure, should be routinely monitored in individuals on high salt regimes.
Keywords: Blood pressure; Orthostatic intolerance; Plasma volume; Salt supplementation; syncope.
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