Cholinergic dysfunction in Shy-Drager syndrome: Effect of the parasympathomimetic agent, bethanechol

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To determine the frequency, severity and organ distribution of cholinergic dysfunction in the Shy-Drager syndrome, eleven patients were prospectively studied. In addition to documenting adrenergic insufficiency, a battery of twelve tests was employed to assess cholinergic function. Six tests demonstrated pupillary, lacrimal, salivary, urinary bladder, sexual and sudomotor dysfunction in the majority of patients. Cardiac vagal function as studied by the heart rate response to deep breathing, the Valsalva manoeuvre, cold face test, apnoeic facial immersion and atropine test was affected in all patients. Oesophageal motility was abnormal in six patients. Cholinergic dysfunction in patients with the Shy-Drager syndrome was widespread but of variable severity and distribution. Subcutaneous administration of the parasympathomimetic agent bethanechol demonstrated hyperresponsiveness of lacrimal, salivary, oesophageal, bowel, bladder and sudomotor functions. It is suggested that the Shy-Drager syndrome is primarily a preganglionic cholinergic disorder with transsynaptic degeneration accounting for the development of postganglionic cholinergic as well as adrenergic dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-13
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Autonomic Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 1 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Bethanechol chloride
  • Cholinergic dysfunction
  • Shy-Drager syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Clinical Neurology

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