OBJECTIVE - To determine if the contribution of the sympathetic nervous system to blood pressure could be evidenced by low-frequency oscillations of systolic blood pressure (LF(SBP)), reflecting vascular sympathetic modulation, or by the decrease in blood pressure after autonomic blockade.
DESIGN - We studied multiple system atrophy (MSA) patients, in whom supine hypertension is maintained by residual sympathetic tone ('positive controls'); pure autonomic failure (PAF) patients, in whom supine hypertension is largely independent of sympathetic tone ('negative controls'); essential hypertensive patients (HTN) and normotensive subjects (NTN).
RESULTS - Supine systolic blood pressure (SBP) was 204 +/- 8, 185 +/- 6, 177 +/- 9 and 130 +/- 4 mmHg in MSA, PAF, HTN and NTN, respectively. LF(SBP) was higher in MSA and HTN (5.7 +/- 1.5 and 5.8 +/- 1.4 mmHg(2) compared to NTN and PAF (3.3 +/- 0.5 and 1.1 +/- 0.5 mmHg(2). Trimethaphan 2-4 mg/min induced complete autonomic blockade and lowered SBP below 125 mmHg in all NTN and all but one MSA (to 111 +/- 3 and 97 +/- 9 mmHg). SBP remained elevated in PAF (164 +/- 7 mmHg). Responses in HTN were variable; SBP decreased below 125 mmHg in three and remained elevated in four patients. The decrease in LF(SBP) correlated with the reduction in SBP, with a steeper slope in MSA and HTN compared to NTN (29.0 +/- 5.5, 8.4 +/- 1.6 and 3.6 +/- 1.2 mmHg/mmH (2), respectively).
CONCLUSION - Ganglionic blockade, alone or coupled to LF(SBP), discriminated between human models of sympathetic-dependent (MSA) and independent (PAF) hypertension. This approach may aid in assessing the contribution of the sympathetic nervous system in essential hypertension, in which sympathetic dependence is variably expressed.