Pathophysiology of orthostatic hypotension after bed rest: Paradoxical sympathetic withdrawal

Atsunori Kamiya, Daisaku Michikami, Qi Fu, Satoshi Iwase, Junichiro Hayano, Toru Kawada, Tadaaki Mano, Kenji Sunagawa

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46 Citations (Scopus)


Although orthostatic hypotension is a common clinical syndrome after spaceflight and its ground-based simulation model, 6° head-down bed rest (HDBR), the pathophysiology remains unclear. The authors' hypothesis that a decrease in sympathetic nerve activity is the major pathophysiology underlying orthostatic hypotension after HDBR was tested in a study involving 14-day HDBR in 22 healthy subjects who showed no orthostatic hypotension during 15-min 60° head-up tilt test (HUT) at baseline. After HDBR, 10 of 22 subjects demonstrated orthostatic hypotension during 60° HUT. In subjects with orthostatic hypotension, total activity of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) increased less during the first minute of 60° HUT after HDBR (314% of resting supine activity) than before HDBR (523% of resting supine activity, P < 0.05) despite HDBR-induced reduction in plasma volume (13% of plasma volume before HDBR). The postural increase in total MSNA continued during several more minutes of 60° HUT while arterial pressure was maintained. Thereafter, however, total MSNA was paradoxically suppressed by 104% of the resting supine level at the last minute of HUT (P < 0.05 vs. earlier 60° HUT periods). The suppression of total MSNA was accompanied by a 22 ± 4-mmHg decrease in mean blood pressure (systolic blood pressure <80 mmHg). In contrast, orthostatic activation of total MSNA was preserved throughout 60° HUT in subjects who did not develop orthostatic hypotension. These data support the hypothesis that a decrease in sympathetic nerve activity is the major pathophysiological factor underlying orthostatic hypotension after HDBR. It appears that the diminished sympathetic activity, in combination with other factors associated with HDBR (e.g., hypovolemia), may predispose some individuals to postural hypotension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H1158-H1167
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number3 54-3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Baroreflex
  • Cardiovascular deconditioning
  • Muscle sympathetic nerve activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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