A 54-year-old woman with a history of hypertension presents with a chief complaint of dizziness. You require an assessment of orthostatic vital signs to proceed. In your busy clinical practice, when should assessment take place to be most useful?
Orthostatic hypotension (OH) is defined as a postural reduction in systolic blood pressure (BP) of ≥ 20 mm Hg or diastolic BP of ≥ 10 mm Hg, measured within 3 minutes of rising from supine to standing. This definition is based on consensus guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology and the American Autonomic Society2 and has been upheld by European guidelines.3
The prevalence of OH is approximately 6% in the general population, with estimates ranging from 10% to 55% in older adults.4 Etiology is often multifactorial; causes may be neurogenic (mediated by autonomic failure as in Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, or diabetic neuropathy), non-neurogenic (related to medications or hypovolemia), or idiopathic.
It’s important to identify OH because of its associated increase in morbidities, such as an increased risk of falls (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.5),5 coronary heart disease (HR = 1.3), stroke (HR = 1.2), and all-cause mortality (HR = 1.4).6 Treatments include physical maneuvers (getting up slowly, leg crossing, and muscle clenching), increased salt and water intake, compression stockings, the addition of medications (such as fludrocortisone or midodrine), and the avoidance of other medications (such as benzodiazepines and diuretics).
The guideline-recommended 3-minute delay in assessment can be impractical in a busy clinical setting. Using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, investigators correlated the timing of measurements of postural change in BP with long-term adverse outcomes.1
Early vs late OH assessment in middle-aged adults
The ARIC study is a longitudinal, prospective, cohort study of almost 16,000 adults followed since 1987. Juraschek et al1 assessed the optimal time to identify OH and its association with the adverse clinical outcomes of fall, fracture, syncope, motor vehicle crash, and mortality. The researchers sought to discover whether BP measurements determined immediately after standing predict adverse events as well as BP measurements taken closer to 3 minutes.
Study participants were between the ages of 45 and 64 years (mean 54 years), and 26% were black and 54% were female. They lived in 4 different US communities. The researchers excluded patients with missing OH assessments or other relevant cohort or historical data, leaving a cohort of 11,429 subjects.
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