Background Autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy (AAG) is a rare disorder of antibody-mediated impaired transmission across the autonomic ganglia resulting in severe autonomic failure. Some patients with AAG report cognitive impairment of unclear etiology despite treatment of autonomic symptoms.
Objective To investigate the relationship between orthostatic hypotension, antibody titers, and cognitive impairment in patients with AAG.
Design Prospective cohort.
Setting Academic medical center.
Participants Three patients with AAG underwent neuropsychological testing before and after cycles of plasma exchange in both the seated and standing positions.
Main Outcome Measures Patients' responses to neuropsychological tests were measured by percentage change from baseline in the seated and standing positions before and after plasma exchange to determine the effects of orthostatic hypotension and antibody titers on cognition.
Results Orthostatic hypotension and elevated antibody titer were associated independently with neuropsychological impairment (P < .05), particularly in domains of executive function, sustained attention, and working memory. Cognitive dysfunction improved, even in the seated normotensive position, after plasmapheresis and consequent reduction in antibody levels.
Conclusion Reversible cognitive impairment is independently associated with both orthostatic hypotension and elevated nicotinic acetylcholine receptor autoantibodies, thereby expanding the clinical spectrum of autonomic ganglionopathy and, in so doing, providing an additional treatable cause of cognitive impairment.