Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is characterized by chronic fatigue and dizziness and affected individuals by definition have orthostatic intolerance and tachycardia. There is considerable overlap of symptoms in patients with POTS and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), prompting speculation that POTS is akin to a deconditioned state. We previously showed that adolescents with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) have excessive heart rate (HR) during, and slower HR recovery after, exercise - hallmarks of deconditioning. We also noted exaggerated cardiac output during exercise which led us to hypothesize that tachycardia could be a manifestation of a high output state rather than a consequence of deconditioning. We audited records of adolescents presenting with long-standing history of any mix of fatigue, dizziness, nausea, who underwent both head-up tilt table test and maximal exercise testing with measurement of cardiac output at rest plus 2-3 levels of exercise, and determined the cardiac output (Q) versus oxygen uptake (V O2) relationship. Subjects with chronic fatigue were diagnosed with POTS if their HR rose ≥40 beat.min-1 with head-up tilt. Among 107 POTS patients the distribution of slopes for the Q - V O2, relationship was skewed toward higher slopes but showed two peaks with a split at ~7.0 L·min-1 per L·min-1, designated as normal (5.08 ± 1.17, N = 66) and hyperkinetic (8.99 ± 1.31, N = 41) subgroups. In contrast, cardiac output rose appropriately with V O2 in 141 patients with chronic fatigue but without POTS, exhibiting a normal distribution and an average slope of 6.10 ± 2.09 L·min-1 Q per L·min-1V O2. Mean arterial blood pressure and pulse pressure from rest to exercise rose similarly in both groups. We conclude that 40% of POTS adolescents demonstrate a hyperkinetic circulation during exercise. We attribute this to failure of normal regional vasoconstriction during exercise, such that patients must increase flow through an inappropriately vasodilated systemic circulation to maintain perfusion pressure.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by the American Dysautonomia Institute and The Hohmann Foundation.
- Cardiac output
- Hyperkinetic circulation
- Orthostatic intolerance
- Sympathetic nervous system