Background: Orthostatic hypotension is an excessive fall in blood pressure (BP) while standing and is the result of a decrease in cardiac output or defective or inadequate vasoconstrictor mechanisms. Fludrocortisone is a mineralocorticoid that increases blood volume and blood pressure. Fludrocortisone is considered the first- or second-line pharmacological therapy for orthostatic hypotension alongside mechanical and positional measures such as increasing fluid and salt intake and venous compression methods. However, there has been no Cochrane Review of the benefits and harms of this drug for this condition. Objectives: To identify and evaluate the benefits and harms of fludrocortisone for orthostatic hypotension. Search methods: We searched the following databases on 11 November 2019: Cochrane Neuromuscular Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase and CINAHL. We also searched trials registries. Selection criteria: We included all studies evaluating the benefits and harms of fludrocortisone compared to placebo, another drug for orthostatic hypotension, or studies without comparators, including randomized controlled trials (RCTs), quasi-RCTs and observational studies. We included studies in people with orthostatic hypotension due to a chronic peripheral neuropathy, a central autonomic neuropathy, or autonomic failure from other causes, but not medication-induced orthostatic hypotension or orthostatic hypotension from acute volume depletion or blood loss. Data collection and analysis: We used Cochrane methodological procedures for most of the review. We developed and used a tool to prioritize observational studies that offered the best available evidence where there are gaps in the evidence from RCTs. We assessed the certainty of evidence for fludrocortisone versus placebo using GRADE. Main results: We included 13 studies of 513 participants, including three cross-over RCTs and 10 observational studies (three cohort studies, six case series and one case-control study). The included RCTs were small (total of 28 participants in RCTs), short term (two to three weeks), only examined fludrocortisone for orthostatic hypotension in people with two conditions (diabetes and Parkinson disease), and had variable risk of bias (two had unclear risk of bias and one had low risk of bias). Heterogeneity in participant populations, comparators and outcome assessment methods prevented meta-analyses of the RCTs. We found very low-certainty evidence about the effects of fludrocortisone versus placebo on drop in BP in people with diabetes (-26 mmHg versus -39 mmHg systolic; -7 mmHg versus -11 mmHg diastolic; 1 cross-over study, 6 participants). For people with Parkinson disease, we found very-low certainty evidence about the effects of fludrocortisone on drop in BP compared to pyridostigmine (-14 mmHg versus -22.1 mmHg diastolic; P = 0.036; 1 cross-over study, 9 participants) and domperidone (no change after treatment in either group; 1 cross-over study, 13 participants). For orthostatic symptoms, we found very low-certainty evidence for fludrocortisone versus placebo in people with diabetes (4 out of 5 analyzed participants had improvements in orthostatic symptoms, 1 cross-over study, 6 participants), for fludrocortisone versus pyridostigmine in people with Parkinson disease (orthostatic symptoms unchanged; 1 cross-over study, 9 participants) or fludrocortisone versus domperidone (improvement to 6 for both interventions on the Composite Autonomic Symptom Scale-Orthostatic Domain (COMPASS-OD); 1 cross-over study, 13 participants). Evidence on adverse events was also very low-certainty in both populations, but indicated side effects were minimal. Observational studies filled some gaps in evidence by examining the effects in larger groups of participants, with more diverse conditions, over longer periods of time. One cohort study (341 people studied retrospectively) found fludrocortisone may not be harmful in the long term for familial dysautonomia. However, it is unclear if this translates to long-term improvements in BP drop or a meaningful improvement in orthostatic symptoms. Authors' conclusions: The evidence is very uncertain about the effects of fludrocortisone on blood pressure, orthostatic symptoms or adverse events in people with orthostatic hypotension and diabetes or Parkinson disease. There is a lack of information on long-term treatment and treatment of orthostatic hypotension in other disease states. There is a need for standardized reporting of outcomes and for standardization of measurements of blood pressure in orthostatic hypotension.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)