Perioperative implications of the patient with autonomic dysfunction

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The autonomic nervous system functions to control heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, gastrointestinal motility, hormone release, and body temperature on a second-to-second basis. Here we summarize some of the latest literature on autonomic dysfunction, focusing primarily on the perioperative implications.

Recent findings

The variety of autonomic dysfunction now extends to a large number of clinical conditions in which the cause or effect of the autonomic component is blurred. Methods for detecting dysautonomia can be as simple as performing a history and physical examination that includes orthostatic vital signs measured in both recumbent and vertical positions; however, specialized laboratories are required for definitive diagnosis. Heart rate variability monitoring is becoming more commonplace in the assessment and understanding of autonomic instability. Degenerative diseases of the autonomic nervous system include Parkinson's disease and multiple system atrophy, with the most serious manifestations being postural hypotension and paradoxical supine hypertension. Other conditions occur in which the autonomic dysfunction is only part of a larger disease process, such as diabetic autonomic neuropathy, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury.

Summary

Patients with dysautonomia often have unpredictable and paradoxical physiological responses to various perioperative stimuli. Knowledge of the underlying pathophysiology of their condition is required in order to reduce symptom exacerbation and limit morbidity and mortality during the perioperative period.

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