The diagnostic evaluation of a patient with suspected postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) requires a thoughtful diagnostic approach utilizing a careful clinical history and examination, laboratory, and autonomic testing. This article outlines the importance of a thorough history in identifying mechanism of symptom onset, clinical features, associated clinical conditions or disorders, and factors that may result in symptom exacerbation. The clinical examination involves an assessment of pupillary responses, an evaluation for sudomotor and vasomotor signs, and an assessment for joint hypermobility. Laboratory testing helps to exclude mimics of autonomic dysfunction, recognize conditions that may exacerbate symptoms, and to identify conditions that may cause or be associated with autonomic nervous system disease. The purpose of autonomic testing is to confirm a POTS diagnosis, exclude other causes of orthostatic intolerance, and may provide for characterization of POTS into neuropathic and hyperadrenergic subtypes. Other diagnostic studies, such as epidermal skin punch biopsy, exercise testing, radiographic studies, sleep studies, gastrointestinal motility studies, and urodynamic studies should be considered when clinically appropriate.
Keywords: Autonomic testing; Dysautonomia; Ehlers-Danlos syndrome; Mast cell activation syndrome; POTS; Postural tachycardia syndrome; Sjögren syndrome.
Effect of Pregnancy on Postural Tachycardia Syndrome
OBJECTIVES: To compare the clinical presentation, autonomic dysfunction, and pregnancy outcomes in parous and nulliparous women with postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and in women with POTS before and after pregnancy.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: This study consists of women who had at least 1 pregnancy during which time they met criteria for POTS between May 1993 and July 2009. All patients underwent standard autonomic testing. POTS was defined as a heart rate (HR) increase of greater than 30 beats/min on head-up tilt (HUT) with symptoms of orthostatic intolerance. Patients’ charts were reviewed retrospectively to determine pregnancy outcomes.
RESULTS: Clinical characteristics related to POTS did not differ between parous and nulliparous women except for disease duration (parous, 3.7±2.6; nulliparous, 2.1±2.2; P<.001). Autonomic dysfunction did not differ between groups (change in HR on HUT: parous, 42.6±12.0 beats/min; nulliparous, 41.3±10.6 beats/min; P=.39). Of 116 total pregnancies, adverse pregnancy outcomes were reported in 9% and maternal complications in 1%. No complication was related to POTS. There was a trend toward modest improvement in autonomic dysfunction before and after pregnancy (change in HR on HUT: before pregnancy, 38.1±22.7 beats/min; after pregnancy, 21.9±14.9 beats/min; P=.07).
CONCLUSION: The long-term impact of pregnancy on POTS does not appear to be clinically important. However, there does appear to be a trend toward improvement in the short-term postpartum period. Adverse pregnancy events were similar to those seen in the general public and do not present a barrier to women with POTS who want to have children.
Postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a heterogeneous clinical syndrome that has gained increasing interest over the past few decades due to its increasing prevalence and clinical impact on health-related quality of life. POTS is clinically characterized by sustained excessive tachycardia upon standing that occurs in the absence of significant orthostatic hypotension and other medical conditions and or medications, and with chronic symptoms of orthostatic intolerance. POTS represents one of the most common presentations of syncope and presyncope secondary to autonomic dysfunction in emergency rooms and in cardiology, neurology, and primary care clinics. The most sensitive method to detect POTS is a detailed medical history, physical examination with orthostatic vital signs or brief tilt table test, and a resting 12-lead electrocardiogram. Additional diagnostic testing may be warranted in selected patients based on clinical signs. While the precise etiology remains unknown, the orthostatic tachycardia in POTS is thought to reflect convergence of multiple pathophysiological processes, as a final common pathway. Based on this, POTS is often described as a clinical syndrome consisting of multiple heterogeneous disorders, with several underlying pathophysiological processes proposed in the literature including partial sympathetic neuropathy, hyperadrenergic state, hypovolemia, mast cell activation, deconditioning, and immune-mediated. These clinical features often overlap, however, making it difficult to categorize individual patients. Importantly, POTS is not associated with mortality, with many patients improving to some degree over time after diagnosis and proper treatment. This review will outline the current understanding of diagnosis, pathophysiology, and prognosis in POTS.