Pure autonomic failure
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    Pure Autonomic Failure: the importance of waiting to confirm the diagnosis
    • Tim Young, Consultant Neurologist Institute of Neurology

    Dear Editor,
    Thomas Brown provided a helpful recent review of pure autonomic failure (PAF) in this journal1. However, there is one very important point which I would wish to add. The diagnosis of this rare condition should be made with extreme caution in the early years of presentation. The first case in the review had a diagnosis of PAF made just two years after symptoms began. In fact, other commoner causes of primary autonomic failure may declare themselves many years after the symptoms first begin, and I have seen a number of such cases during my time at the autonomic unit in Queen Square. A rough rule of thumb used to be that at least five years should pass before making a definitive diagnosis of PAF2. More recent evidence suggests that even longer may be required. A third of cases already with symptoms suggestive of PAF for an average of 5 years were found to have an alternative diagnosis with subsequent follow up for a further four years3. Alternative diagnoses included other synucleinopathies such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies or multiple system atrophy.
    For many years attempts have been made to find reliable ways to distinguish PAF from other causes of primary autonomic failure. PAF is seen classically as a post-ganglionic disorder whilst multiple system atrophy is seen as a pre-ganglionic form of primary autonomic failure. Utilising this pathophysiological difference, a variety of differentiating tests have been attempted....

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.