This article reviews the management of orthostatic hypotension with emphasis on neurogenic orthostatic hypotension.
Establishing whether the cause of orthostatic hypotension is a pathologic lesion in sympathetic neurons (ie, neurogenic orthostatic hypotension) or secondary to other medical causes (ie, non-neurogenic orthostatic hypotension) can be achieved by measuring blood pressure and heart rate at the bedside. Whereas fludrocortisone has been extensively used as first-line treatment in the past, it is associated with adverse events including renal and cardiac failure and increased risk of all-cause hospitalization. Distinguishing whether neurogenic orthostatic hypotension is caused by central or peripheral dysfunction has therapeutic implications. Patients with peripheral sympathetic denervation respond better to norepinephrine agonists/precursors such as droxidopa, whereas patients with central autonomic dysfunction respond better to norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors.
Management of orthostatic hypotension is aimed at improving quality of life and reducing symptoms rather than at normalizing blood pressure. Nonpharmacologic measures are the key to success. Pharmacologic options include volume expansion with fludrocortisone and sympathetic enhancement with midodrine, droxidopa, and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Neurogenic supine hypertension complicates management of orthostatic hypotension and is primarily ameliorated by avoiding the supine position and sleeping with the head of the bed elevated.