Orthostatic hypotension in Alzheimer’s disease: result or cause of brain dysfunction?

In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), an association was found between autonomic dysfunction and frontal hypoperfusion in brain during orthostatic testing. To ascertain whether frontal hypoperfusion is dependent on longitudinal effects of hemodynamic disturbances, or contributes to them, we studied the relationship between the presence of orthostatic hypotension (OH) and resting cerebral blood flow (CBF) in late stages of AD.

Twelve women with senile dementia of Alzheimer type (SDAT), and 15 non-demented women (mean age 82.6 years, SD 3.8 vs 81.8 years, SD 3.5) were examined with the orthostatic test. Four of 12 patients with SDAT, and 9 controls had OH (defined as systolic blood pressure fall > or = 20 mmHg). CBF was determined under resting conditions using 600 Mbq 99mTc HMPAO single photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT), and quantified in cortical areas in relation to cerebellum. In patients with SDAT and OH, CBF was lower in frontal and parieto-frontal cortical areas than in SDAT patients without OH. The former group was younger and had a shorter dementia duration. No significant differences in CBF were observed between controls with vs without OH. No differences in SDAT patients with or without OH were observed in the Berger dementia scale or Katz’ ADL index.

No difference in incidence of symptoms related to autonomic disturbances (diarrhea, obstipation, dysphagia, vertigo) was observed in either the SDAT or control group with regard to OH presence. We conclude that during the course of AD, OH can contribute to frontal brain changes and may exacerbate the disease. The further involvement of frontal dysfunction in aggravating blood pressure dysregulation in the elderly is discussed.

Source: Aging (Milano) 1999 Jun;11(3):155-60

PMID: 10476310, UI: 99405225

(Department of Community Medicine, Malmo University Hospital, Sweden.)

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