Objectives: We sought to compare the forearm reflex venous response to mental arithmetic stress in patients with neuromediated syncope and in normal subjects.
Background: Patients with neuromediated syncope have a paradoxic arterial vasodilation in response to stressors that usually provoke vasoconstriction. Given the postulated role of diminished preload in provoking the reflex responses resulting in syncope, we hypothesized that mental stress might provoke paradoxic reflex venodilation in patients with neuromediated syncope.
Methods: Twelve normal subjects (mean age [+/-SD] 47 +/- 9 years) and 27 patients with neuromediated syncope (mean age 42 +/- 13 years) were studied before and during a mental arithmetic stress test. Forearm venous pressure-volume relations were determined by using radionuclide plethysmography.
Results: During mental arithmetic stress, heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure increased significantly and similarly both in normal subjects and in patients with neuromediated syncope. The heart rate and blood pressure changes were qualitatively similar in both groups. However, with mental arithmetic stress, forearm venoconstriction of 13 +/- 2% (mean +/- SEM) was noted in normal subjects (p < 0.001) but not in patients with neuromediated syncope (mean 2%, p = NS). This group response of patients with neuromediated syncope did not result from a lack of individual responses but occurred because these patients had a wide range of responses. The normal physiologic and methodologic variability of the method was +/- 4%. Thirteen of the 27 patients with neuromediated syncope had forearm venoconstriction of 14.5 +/- 6.8% during mental arithmetic stress, whereas 7 had paradoxic forearm venodilation of 14.6 +/- 8.8%, and 7 were considered nonresponders (-1.3 +/- 3.4%). Thus, 14 (52%) of the 27 patients with syncope did not have normal vasoconstriction in response to mental stress.
Conclusions: Patients with neuromediated syncope have an abnormal range of forearm venomotor responses to mental arithmetic stress. Reflex control of the veins may play an important role in the pathogenesis of neuromediated syncope.