Efficacy of alpha-adrenergic agonist therapy for prevention of pediatric neurocardiogenic syncope

M J Strieper, R M Campbell
Journal of the American College of Cardiology 1993, 22 (2): 594-7

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of our study was to determine whether alpha-adrenergic agonist therapy could prevent neurocardiogenic syncope in pediatric patients.

BACKGROUND: Recent reports from adult patients suggest that withdrawal of alpha-sympathetic stimulation contributes to neurocardiogenic syncope.

METHODS: Sixteen young patients (mean age 13.1 years, range 7 years 10 months to 17 years 10 months) with recurrent syncope and a positive baseline head-up tilt response were studied. After a positive baseline tilt response, phenylephrine was infused and repeat tilt was performed for 30 min or until the test result was positive. At discharge, patients were followed up on a regimen of oral pseudoephedrine to evaluate treatment effectiveness and side effects.

RESULTS: During baseline tilt, seven patients experienced vasodepressor syncope, seven had mixed vasodepressor-cardioinhibitory syncope and two had cardioinhibitory responses. All patients became symptomatic, reproducing their clinical symptoms. Baseline mean arterial pressure decreased slightly immediately on tilt testing and significantly at the end point (82 +/- 13 vs. 77 +/- 18 vs. 30 +/- 14 mm Hg, respectively, p < 0.0001). Although heart rate varied, the changes were not statistically significant (78 +/- 17 vs. 105 +/- 19 vs. 87 +/- 46 beats/min, respectively, p = NS). Phenylephrine was infused (mean 1.74, range 0.6 to 3.0 micrograms/kg per min) as patients underwent follow-up tilt testing. Fifteen patients remained asymptomatic without hemodynamic changes; the remaining patient manifested a blunted mixed response. During phenylephrine infusion, heart rate (64 +/- 12 vs. 81 +/- 17 vs. 76 +/- 16 beats/min, respectively, p = NS) and mean arterial pressure (96 +/- 15 vs. 83 +/- 19 vs. 80 +/- 18 mm Hg, respectively, p = NS) did not change. During outpatient oral pseudoephedrine treatment (mean 11.7, range 6 to 14) 15 of 16 patients reported that their clinical condition was controlled without side effects.

CONCLUSIONS: Alpha-adrenergic stimulation prevents pediatric neurocardiogenic syncope. Intravenous phenylephrine prevents neurocardiogenic syncope during head-up tilt, despite reflex vagal bradycardia. Oral pseudoephedrine alleviates symptoms in patients with neurocardiogenic syncope without causing significant side effects.

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