Vol 17, No 5 (2010)
Original articles
Published online: 2010-09-23

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Autonomic dysfunction presenting as postural tachycardia syndrome following traumatic brain injury

Khalil Kanjwal, Beverly Karabin, Yousuf Kanjwal, Blair P. Grubb
Cardiol J 2010;17(5):482-487.


Background: Autonomic dysregulation (also called diencephalic epilepsy) has been reported following traumatic brain injuries (TBI). However, until now, postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) has not been reported as a long-term complication in patients who have suffered a TBI. We report on a series of patients who developed POTS after suffering TBI.
Methods: Eight patients who were referred to our center had suffered TBI and developed features of orthostatic intolerance following head trauma. The patients’ neurological, neurosurgical and autonomic data (charts and/or physician letters) were then carefully reviewed for demographic characteristics, comorbid conditions, symptoms of orthostatic intolerance, medications and response to medication. These patients were diagnosed as having POTS, primarily based on their clinical features and findings from the head-up tilt test (HUTT). The data presented is observational and descriptive (percentages or means).
Results: Eight patients (seven of them women) aged 21–41 years had suffered from TBI and had developed features of POTS. All had been normal with no symptoms prior to their TBI. All patients experienced orthostatic dizziness, fatigue, palpitations and near syncope. Six patients suffered from frank syncope. Six patients developed significant cognitive dysfunction, and three developed a chronic pain syndrome following trauma. All of the patients reported severe limitations to their daily activities and had been unable to keep their jobs, and two were housebound. Six patients demonstrated a good response to therapy with various combinations of medication. The symptoms of orthostatic intolerance and syncope improved with the initiation of medical therapy, as well as their reported quality of life. Two patients failed to show any improvement with various combinations of medications and tilt training, and continued to experience orthostatic difficulties.
Conclusions: Postural tachycardia syndrome may, in some cases, be a late complication of traumatic brain injury. (Cardiol J 2010; 17, 5: 482-487)

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