Impact of age on the vasovagal response provoked by sublingual nitroglycerine in routine tilt testing

Bart Verheyden, Janneke Gisolf, Frank Beckers, John M. Karemaker, Karel H. Wesseling, André E. Aubert, Wouter Wieling

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NTG (nitroglycerine) is used in routine tilt testing to elicit a vasovagal response. In the present study we hypothesized that with increasing age NTG triggers a more gradual BP (blood pressure) decline due to a diminished baroreflex-buffering capacity. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of NTG on baroreflex control of BP in patients with distinct age-related vasovagal collapse patterns. The study groups consisted of 29 patients (16-71 years old, 17 females) with clinically suspected VVS (vasovagal syncope) and a positive tilt test. Mean FAP (finger arterial pressure) was monitored continuously (Finapres). Left ventricular SV (stroke volume), CO (cardiac output) and SVR (systemic vascular resistance) were computed from the pressure pulsations (Modelflow). BRS (baroreflex sensitivity) was estimated in the time domain. In the first 3 min after NTG administration, BP was well-maintained in all patients. This implied an adequate arterial resistance response to compensate for steeper reductions in SV and CO with increasing age. HR (heart rate) increased and the BRS decreased after NTG administration. The rate of mean FAP fall leading to presyncope was inversely related to age (r = 0.51, P = 0.005). Accordingly, patients with a mean FAP fall > 1.44 mmHg/s (median) were generally younger compared with patients with a slower mean FAP-fall (30 ± 10 years compared with 51 ± 17 years; P = 0.001). The main determinant of the rate of BP fall on approach of presyncope was the rate of fall in HR (r = 0.75, P < 0.001). It was concluded that, in older patients, sublingual NTG provokes a more gradual BP decline compared with younger patients. This gradual decline cannot be ascribed to failure of the baroreflex-buffering capacity with increasing age. Age-related differences in the laboratory presentation of a vasovagal episode depend on the magnitude of the underlying bradycardic response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-337
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Science
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Age
  • Baroreflex sensitivity
  • Blood pressure
  • Head-up tilt
  • Nitroglycerine
  • Vasovagal syncope

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