Alteration of autonomic nervous system regulation is known to be present in the persistent vegetative state after traumatic brain injury, termed the dysautonomic syndrome. This study assessed the circadian blood pressure and heart rate pattern and variability in the persistent vegetative state through noninvasive 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. The study was performed in 20 subjects: 10 patients (six men and four women; mean age, 29.5±9.9 years; range, 19–39 years) in a vegetative state (mean, 27.3±5.6 days after trauma) and 10 healthy subjects as controls (six men and four women; mean age, 28±5.7 years; range, 29–37 years). The patients showed a blood pressure nondipper pattern; 24-hour, daytime, and nighttime values of blood pressure and heart rate were significantly higher in patients than in controls. The day–night difference in heart rate and blood pressure was also significantly lower in patients. Finally, SD and variation coefficients were significantly lower in patients. The results show changes in the variability and circadian blood pressure and heart rate patterns in persistent vegetative state patients with dysautonomic syndrome, as an expression of the sympathetic– parasympathetic activity imbalance in the control of vasomotor tone.
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