Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Pure autonomic failure
  1. Thomas P Brown
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas P Brown, Director of Graduate Medical Education, Broward Health Medical Center 1600 S. Andrews Ave, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316, USA; tom.p.brown{at}


Pure autonomic failure is a degenerative disorder of the peripheral autonomic nervous system. Patients experience symptomatic hypotension that requires them to sit, squat or lie down to prevent syncope. It is associated with characteristic histopathological findings, resulting in neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions in the peripheral autonomic nerves. These lesions are responsible for defects in the synthesis and release of norepinephrine from sympathetic nerve terminals, resulting in significant hypotension. Patients with autonomic failure also have exaggerated blood pressure responses to common stimuli such as food or fluid intake, heat, exercise and medications. Tilt table (head-up) testing is probably the test most commonly used to establish the diagnosis. However, simple office testing is also useful, such as having the patient stand after lying supine with blood pressure monitoring. Treatment options range from simply increasing fluid and salt intake, and using compressive garments, to medications administered orally, subcutaneously or intravenously in more severe cases.

  • pure autonomic failure
  • hypotension
  • blood pressure
  • supine hypertension

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed. This paper was reviewed by Gordon Ingle, London, UK.