Patients with the postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) are primarily premenopausal women, which may be attributed to female sex hormones. We tested the hypothesis that hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle alter sympathetic neural activity and orthostatic tolerance in POTS women. Ten POTS women were studied during the early follicular (EF) and mid-luteal (ML) phases of the menstrual cycle. Haemodynamics and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) were measured when supine, during 60 deg upright tilt for 45 min or until presyncope, and during the cold pressor test (CPT) and Valsalva manoeuvres. Blood pressure and total peripheral resistance were higher during rest and tilting in the ML than EF phase; however, heart rate, stroke volume and cardiac output were similar between phases. There were no mean ± SD differences in MSNA burst frequency (8 ± 8 EF phase vs. 10 ± 10 bursts min-1 ML phase at rest; 34 ± 15 EF phase vs. 36 ± 16 bursts min-1 ML phase at 5 min tilt), burst incidence or total activity, nor any differences in the cardiovagal and sympathetic baroreflex sensitivities between phases under any condition. The incidence of presyncope was also the same between phases. There were no differences in haemodynamic or sympathetic responses to CPT or Valsalva. These results suggest that the menstrual cycle does not affect sympathetic neural activity but modulates blood pressure and vasoconstriction in POTS women during tilting. Thus, factors other than sympathetic neural activity are probably responsible for the symptoms of orthostatic intolerance across the menstrual cycle in women with POTS.
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