The distribution of Lewy bodies in pure autonomic failure: autopsy findings and review of the literature

Acta Neuropathol. 1997 Aug;94(2):192-6. doi: 10.1007/s004010050693.


Pure autonomic failure (PAF; also known as idiopathic orthostatic hypotension or Bradbury-Eggleston syndrome) is an uncommon sporadic disorder, characterized by autonomic failure without other neurological deficits and histopathologically by cell loss in intermediolateral columns and sympathetic ganglia. Few postmortem studies of patients with PAF have been reported in the literature, and none have demonstrated Lewy bodies in distal axons, although this has been described as a feature in Parkinson's disease with autonomic failure. We report a patient with PAF who had orthostatic hypotension and urinary symptoms for 15 years prior to death at the age of 63 years. Postmortem findings included typical and atypical Lewy bodies in the substantia nigra, locus ceruleus, substantia innominata, and sympathetic ganglia, as well as in autonomic axons in the epicardial fat, autonomic nerve fascicles in periadrenal adipose tissue, and autonomic nerves in the muscularis of the urinary bladder. Sites of autonomic nerve involvement correlated with clinical symptomatology, and thus were a valuable observation in the complete autopsy. Systemic autopsy results should be reviewed carefully in patients with PAF, as Lewy bodies in this disease may be seen in distal axons at a great length from their primary cell bodies.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Autopsy
  • Axons / chemistry
  • Axons / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lewy Bodies / metabolism*
  • Lewy Bodies / pathology
  • Lewy Bodies / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tissue Distribution