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Am J Med. 2001 Aug 15;111(3):177-84.

Prospective evaluation of patients with syncope: a population-based study.

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Medical Clinics 1 and 2 and Department of Internal Medicine, Hôpital Cantonal, University of Geneva Medical School, Geneva, Switzerland.



To determine the diagnostic yield of a standardized sequential evaluation of patients with syncope in a primary care teaching hospital.


All consecutive patients who presented to the emergency department with syncope as a chief complaint were enrolled. Their evaluation included initial and routine clinical examination, including carotid sinus massage, as well as electrocardiography and basic laboratory testing. Targeted tests, such as echocardiography, were used when a specific entity was suspected clinically. Other cardiovascular tests (24-hour Holter monitoring, ambulatory loop recorder ECG, upright tilt test, and signal-averaged electrocardiography) were performed in patients with unexplained syncope after the initial steps. Electrophysiologic studies were performed in selected patients only as clinically appropriate. Follow-up information on recurrence and mortality were obtained every 6 months for as long as 18 months for 94% (n = 611) of the patients.


After the initial clinical evaluation, a suspected cause of syncope was found in 69% (n = 446) of the 650 patients, including neurocardiogenic syncope (n = 234, 36%), orthostatic hypotension (n = 156, 24%), arrhythmia (n = 24, 4%), and other diseases (n = 32, 5%). Of the 67 patients who underwent targeted tests, suspected diagnoses were confirmed in 49 (73%) patients: aortic stenosis (n = 8, 1%), pulmonary embolism (n = 8, 1%), seizures/stroke (n = 30, 5%), and other diseases (n = 3). Extensive cardiovascular workups, which were performed in 122 of the 155 patients in whom syncope remained unexplained after clinical assessment, provided a suspected cause of syncope in only 30 (25%) patients, including arrhythmias in 18 (60%), all of whom had abnormal baseline ECGs. The 18-month mortality was 9% (n = 55, including 8 patients with sudden death); syncope recurred in 15% (n = 95) of the patients.


The diagnostic yield of a standardized clinical evaluation of syncope was 76%, greater than reported previously in unselected patients. Electrocardiogram-based risk stratification was useful in guiding the use of specialized cardiovascular tests.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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