Autonomic Abnormalities in Patients With Primary Sjogren’s Syndrome – Preliminary Results

Enrico Brunetta, Dana Shiffer, Pietro Mandelli, Sara Achenza, Marco Folci, Aurora Zumbo, Maura Minonzio, Beatrice Cairo, Giris Jacob, Laura Boccassini, Piercarlo Sarzi Puttini, Alberto Porta, Raffaello Furlan

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Primary Sjögren’s syndrome (pSS) is an autoimmune disease affecting exocrine glands and extra-glandular organs. There are conflicting reports on the presence of autonomic dysfunction in pSS and no data are available on the functional status of sympathetic outflow to the vessels and baroreceptor [baroreflex sensitivity (BRS)] control mechanisms. We investigated the cardiac (cBRS) and sympathetic (sBRS) baroreceptor modulation in both time and frequency domains and the cardiovascular autonomic profile in pSS patients compared to healthy controls. Autonomic symptoms were quantified by the Composite Autonomic Symptom Scale (COMPASS31) three-item questionnaire. The EULAR Sjogren’s syndrome patient reported index (ESSPRI) questionnaire evaluated the magnitude of pSS clinical symptoms, i.e., fatigue, pain, and sicca symptoms. Electrocardiogram, beat-by-beat arterial pressure (AP) and respiratory activity were continuously recorded in 17 pSS patients and 16 healthy controls, while supine and during 75° head-up tilt. In seven patients and seven controls, muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) was measured. Spectrum analysis of RR variability provided markers of cardiac vagal modulation (HFRR nu) and sympatho-vagal balance [low frequency (LF)/high frequency (HF)]. The power of LF (0.1 Hz) oscillations of systolic arterial pressure (SAP) variability (LFSAP) evaluated the vasomotor response to sympathetic stimulation. Compared to controls, pSS patients scored higher in total COMPASS31 (p < 0.0001) and all ESSPRI subdomains (fatigue, p = 0.005; pain, p = 0.0057; dryness, p < 0.0001). Abnormal scialometry (<1.5 ml/15 min) and Schirmer tests (<5 mm/5 min) were found in pSS patients and salivary flow rate was negatively associated with ESSPRI dryness (p = 0.0014). While supine, pSS patients had lower SEQcBRS index of cardiac baroreceptor sensitivity, higher HFRRnu (p = 0.021), lower LF/HF (p = 0.007), and greater MSNA (p = 0.038) than controls. No differences were observed in LFSAP between groups. During orthostatic challenge, although LFSAP increased similarly in both groups, MSNA was greater in pSS patients (p = 0.003). At rest pSS patients showed lower cBR control and greater parasympathetic modulation. Furthermore, greater sympathetic nerve activity was observed in pSS patients while supine and in response to gravitational challenge. We hypothesized that such enhanced sympathetic vasoconstrictor activity might reflect an attempt to maintain blood pressure in a setting of likely reduced vascular responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1104
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - Aug 27 2019


  • baroreceptor activity
  • heart rate variability
  • muscle sympathetic nerve activity
  • power spectrum analysis
  • primary Sjogren’s syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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