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Dysautonomia in heavy drinkers for more than 5 years of alcoholic consumption with intact liver function

Stephy Sebastian, Nagaraja Puranik.


Background: It is known for long that alcoholic liver cirrhosis is characterized by autonomic dysfunction due to the underlying liver pathology. However, alcohol can have a direct effect on the autonomic functions even before the liver functions are altered.

Aims and Objectives: We have undertaken this study to test and compare the autonomic function status in apparently healthy alcoholics with normal liver function tests with age- and sex-matched healthy individuals.

Materials and Methods: Thirty healthy non-alcoholics with normal liver function as controls and 30 apparently healthy alcoholics for more than 5 years with normal liver function tests were taken for this study. Autonomic function tests for both parasympathetic and sympathetic functions were performed in both these groups, and the results were compared.

Result: Parasympathetic function tests were within the normal range except for the resting heart rate (HR) which showed a significant increase (P < 0.01) in the study subjects compared with the controls. Sympathetic tests showed a very significant increase in blood pressure (BP) response to postural change and a significant change in handgrip test.

Conclusion: Resting HR and BP response to postural change were increased and BP response to handgrip test has shown a significant change in study subjects compared to controls which suggest that both sympathetic and parasympathetic functions are altered in them. We will conclude this study with the findings that alcohol has a direct effect on the autonomic nervous system even without any liver function tests alteration.

Key words: Chronic Alcoholism; Intact Liver Function Tests; Autonomic Nervous System; Parasympathetic Dysfunction; Sympathetic Over Activity

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