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Orthostatic Testing Procedure

by David S. Bell, MD, FAAP

Lyndonville News September 2000 Volume 2 Issue 5

A number of people have requested the procedure for orthostatic testing that we perform in the office. It takes about 45 minutes and requires a nurse to be constantly present. It is important to note that this test is difficult for some persons with CFS [Chronic Fatigue Syndrome] and an opportunity to rest for an hour after the testing is offered. Intravenous saline is helpful to aid recovery.

  1. Patients should be tested late morning or early afternoon with no unusual activity prior to testing. Large meals and large volumes of fluid prior to testing should be avoided.
  2. Normal medications should be taken the day of the test. Medications, which affect circulating volume, should be stopped at least two weeks prior to testing, as they will affect the results. Examples are Florinef, diuretics, blood pressure medications, large salt loads. Tricyclics [antidepressants] and SSRI [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor] medications are acceptable if not for research studies.
  3. Blood pressure should be taken with manual blood pressure cuff every three to five minutes, along with pulse. If available, a dynamap or other accurate BP [blood pressure] device can be used.
  4.  Step 1. Patient lying down comfortably for 10 minutes. Pulse and BP are recorded at onset, 5 min and 10 min, along with recording of observations of spontaneously reported symptoms.
  5.  Step 2. Patient stands without moving or leaning on any object for 30 min or as long as tolerated. If patient pre-syncopal, the test is terminated. Right arm is resting on table at mid chest (heart) level with BP cuff in place. Pulse and BP are taken every 5 minutes, and spontaneous symptoms recorded as well as observations (ie, yawning, feet mottled or bluish, etc). If symptoms become more severe, pulse and BP are taken every 3 minutes.


Below is a listing of the abnormalities observed and the normal values taken from Dr. David Streeten's book Orthostatic Disorders of the Circulation.

Normal sBP: recumbent: 100-142; Standing (4 min): 94-141; Orthostatic change: -19 to +11
Normal dBP: recumbent: 55-90; Standing: 61-97; Orthostatic change: -9 to +22
Normal P: recumbent: 54-96; Standing: 62-108; Orthostatic change: -6 to +27
Orthostatic systolic hypotension: fall in systolic blood pressure of 20 mmHg or more
Orthostatic diastolic hypotension: fall in diastolic BP of 10 mm Hg or more.
Orthostatic diastolic hypertension: rise in diastolic BP to 98 mm Hg or higher
Orthostatic narrowing of pulse pressure: reduction in pulse pressure to 18 mm Hg or lower.
Orthostatic postural tachycardia: increase in heart rate of 28 bpm or to greater than 110 b/min.

Reference [of Results]: Streeten DHP. Orthostatic disorders of the circulation. New York: Plenum, 1987:116.

[Also, see Orthostatic Intolerance Test Results for more details about the 5 types of Orthostatic Intolerance and Faces of CFS for another example of the OI test and using compression pants. For more articles and books by Dr. David S. Bell and more articles about Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), please visit the Links page.]

[Abbreviations used above:
sBP = systolic blood pressure (top number)
dBP = diastolic blood pressure (bottom number)
P = pulse
recumbent = lying down
min = minutes
Orthostatic change = difference between lying down and standing
mm Hg = millimeters of mercury (pressure)
pulse pressure = difference between top and bottom number
bpm or b/min = beats per minute]

Information in brackets has been added.

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Lyndonville News written by:

David S. Bell, MD FAAP
Jean Pollard, AS
Mary Robinson, MS Ed

Lyndonville News - DISCLAIMER: The views in this newsletter are the feelings and opinions of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect all of the current theories that are being explored and published relating to CFS. If you have specific questions and concerns you should consult your personal physician for the answers.

Lyndonville News - COPYRIGHT NOTICE: The entire contents of this newsletter are copyrighted to Bell, Pollard & Robinson, 2000. For permission to reprint sections of this newsletter please direct your request to the above authors.

Copyright © Bell, Pollard, Robinson, 2000

For more articles from the Lyndonville News, please visit the Links page.

Posted with permission from the author.

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