Orthostatic intolerance and postural tachycardia syndrome as suspected adverse effects of vaccination against human papilloma virus

Authors: Louise S. Brinth, Kirsten Pors, Ann C. Theibel, Jesper Mehlsen

Abstract

Background

Infections with human papilloma virus (HPV) can result in cervical, oropharyngeal, anal, and penile cancer and vaccination programs have been launched in many countries as a preventive measure. We report the characteristics of a number of patients with a syndrome of orthostatic intolerance, headache, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and neuropathic pain starting in close relation to HPV vaccination.

Methods

Patients were referred for orthostatic intolerance following HPV vaccination. Symptoms of autonomic dysfunction were quantified by standardised questionnaire. The diagnosis of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) rested on finding a sustained heart rate increment of >30 min−1 (>40 min−1in adolescents) or to levels >120 min−1 during orthostatic challenge.

Results

35 women aged 23.3 ± 7.1 years participated. Twenty-five had a high level of physical activity before vaccination and irregular periods were reported by all patients not on treatment with oral contraception. Serum bilirubin was below the lower detection limit in 17 patients. Twenty-one of the referred patients fulfilled the criteria for a diagnosis of POTS (60%, 95%CI 43–77%). All patients had orthostatic intolerance, 94% nausea, 82% chronic headache, 82% fatigue, 77% cognitive dysfunction, 72% segmental dystonia, 68% neuropathic pain.

Conclusions

In a population referred for symptoms of orthostatic intolerance and other symptoms consistent with autonomic dysfunction that began in close temporal association with a quadrivalent HPV vaccination, we identified a 60% prevalence of POTS. Further work is urgently needed to elucidate the potential for a causal link between the vaccine and circulatory abnormalities and to establish targeted treatment options for the affected patients.

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