Antipsychotic Pharmacotherapy and Orthostatic Hypotension

Gugger, James J.
August 2011
CNS Drugs;2011, Vol. 25 Issue 8, p659
Academic Journal
Orthostatic hypotension is a common adverse effect of antipsychotics thatmay delay or prevent titration to a dose necessary to control psychotic symptoms. Complications of orthostatic hypotension include syncope, transient ischaemic attack, stroke, myocardial infarction and death. The risk of orthostatic hypotension associated with antipsychotic therapy is increased in patients with disorders of the autonomic nervous system, fluid imbalance and those taking concomitant drug therapy that affects haemodynamic tone. Prospective monitoring for changes in postural blood pressure is important because patients with psychotic disorders often do not articulate symptoms of orthostasis and the subjective report of dizziness does not correlate well with orthostatic blood pressure changes. Nonpharmacological strategies and patient education, most notably, slowly rising from the supine position, are crucial first steps in the prevention and treatment of both symptomatic and asymptomatic orthostatic hypotension. Pharmacological treatment is only recommended when symptomatic orthostatic hypotension persists despite proper nonpharmacological therapy and there is a compelling indication for antipsychotic treatment. Fludrocortisone is a reasonable first choice for symptomatic orthostatic hypotension. Other agents including desmopressin and midodrine may be considered in patients who do not respond favourably to a trial of fludrocortisone, but safety concerns and lack of evidence limit the utility of these agents.


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