POTS: association with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and orthopaedic considerations
Article published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research by Emmanouil Grigoriou, Jeffrey Boris, and John Dormans
Background: Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is the most common of several types of dysautonomia, characterized by dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system manifesting with symptoms of orthostatic intolerance with or without associated orthostatic hypotension and excessive autonomic excitation. Given the numerous presenting musculoskeletal symptoms of POTS and its known associations with other clinical entities like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, POTS constitutes an unusual treatment challenge of which the orthopaedic surgeon and other related healthcare providers should be aware.
Case Description: We describe two patients with a diagnosis of POTS and musculoskeletal manifestations. The first is a 13-year-old boy with a concurrent diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and worsening back pain. The patient had resolution of his musculoskeletal symptoms after treatment with a Boston Overlap LSO brace and physical therapy and resolution of his cardiovascular symptoms after pharmacologic treatment. The second patient is a 17-year-old girl with an L1 vertebral hemangioma and pain of sudden onset radiating to her lower extremities. Her symptoms were controlled with therapy and gabapentin.
Literature Review: POTS is a poorly understood and controversial clinical entity with lack of awareness and knowledge regarding the syndrome by the majority of medical specialists. Its complex and wide range of clinical presentation has led to being commonly mistaken with malingering, depression and anxiety disorders. Review of the literature did not yield any previous studies addressing POTS and the special considerations for the orthopaedic surgeon caring for these patients; previous studies of large patient series focus on investigating the pathologic substrate of POTS and the efficacy of various treatment modalities on the cardiovascular dysregulation.
Clinical Relevance: These two cases show that understanding and knowledge of this syndrome and its comorbidities should guide any diagnostic approach or therapeutic intervention by the orthopaedic surgeon caring for patients with this syndrome. It is important that the surgeon is aware of the benefits of detailed patient education and physical conditioning, the increased perioperative complications, and the need for specialized anesthesia.