Overview of the Autonomic Nervous System – Brain, Spinal …

By daniellenierenberg

Tests to determine how blood pressure changes during certain maneuvers

During the physical examination, doctors can check for signs of autonomic disorders, such as orthostatic hypotension. For example, they measure blood pressure and heart rate while a person is lying down or sitting and after the person stands to check how blood pressure changes when position is changed. When a person stands up, gravity makes it harder for blood from the legs to get back to the heart. Thus, blood pressure decreases. To compensate, the heart pumps harder, and the heart rate increases. However, the changes in heart rate and blood pressure are slight and brief. If the changes are larger or last longer, the person may have orthostatic hypotension.

The tilt table test and the Valsalva maneuver, done together, can help doctors determine whether a decrease in blood pressure is due to an autonomic nervous system disorder.

Doctors examine the pupils for abnormal responses or lack of response to changes in light.

Sweat testing is also done. For one sweat test, the sweat glands are stimulated by electrodes that are filled with acetylcholine and placed on the legs and forearm. Then, the volume of sweat is measured to determine whether sweat production is normal. A slight burning sensation may be felt during the test.

In the thermoregulatory sweat test, a dye is applied to the skin, and a person is placed in a closed, heated compartment to stimulate sweating. Sweat causes the dye to change color. Doctors can then evaluate the pattern of sweat loss, which may help them determine the cause of the autonomic nervous system disorder.

Other tests may be done to check for disorders that can cause the autonomic disorder.

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Overview of the Autonomic Nervous System - Brain, Spinal ...

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