1. Two patients are described who presented with orthostatic hypotension as the main symptom. The diagnosis was sympathetic failure with intact vagal control.
2. Unusual test result's were obtained. Assessment of the integrity of the total baroreflex arc by the Valsalva manoeuvre measuring only heart rate changes proved impossible, since the magnitude and time course of the heart rate response were normal notwithstanding the presence of a blood pressure response typical of sympathetic failure.
3. Sustained handgrip, cold pressor test and mental stress test all could induce a rise in blood pressure, despite the presence of sympathetic vasomotor lesions, but only when accompanied by a rise in heart rate. Efferent parasympathetic blockade by atropine, resulting in an increase in heart rate, was also accompanied by a substantial rise in blood pressure. These findings seem to result from a heart rate rise dependent increase in cardiac output unopposed by reflex vasodilatation.
4. In these patients the only baroreflex way to control blood pressure is by varying heart rate. This condition can be evaluated only if blood pressure and heart rate are measured on a beat-by-beat basis.