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Int J Cardiol. 2013 Jul 15;167(1):57-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2011.11.083. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

Incidence, etiology and predictors of adverse outcomes in 43,315 patients presenting to the Emergency Department with syncope: an international meta-analysis.

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University of Turin, Division of Cardiology, Italy.



Syncope remains challenging for Emergency Department (ED) physicians due to difficulties in assessing the risk of future adverse outcomes. The aim of this meta-analysis is to establish the incidence and etiology of adverse outcomes as well as the predictors, in patients presenting with syncope to the ED.


A systematic electronic literature review was performed looking for eligible studies published between 1990 and 2010. Studies reporting multivariate predictors of adverse outcomes in patients presenting with syncope to the ED were included and pooled, when appropriate, using a random-effect method. Adverse events were defined as 'incidence of death, or of hospitalization and interventional procedures because of arrhythmias, ischemic heart disease or valvular heart disease'.


11 studies were included. Pooled analysis showed 42% (CI 95%; 32-52) of patients were admitted to hospital. Risk of death was 4.4% (CI 95%; 3.1-5.1) and 1.1% (CI 95%; 0.7-1.5) had a cardiovascular etiology. One third of patients were discharged without a diagnosis, while the most frequent diagnosis was 'situational, orthostatic or vasavagal syncope' in 29% (CI 95%; 12-47). 10.4% (CI 95%; 7.8-16) was diagnosed with heart disease, the most frequent type being bradyarrhythmia, 4.8% (CI 95%; 2.2-6.4) and tachyarrhythmia 2.6% (CI 95%; 1.1-3.1). Palpitations preceding syncope, exertional syncope, a history consistent of heart failure or ischemic heart disease, and evidence of bleeding were the most powerful predictors of an adverse outcome.


Syncope carries a high risk of death, mainly related to cardiovascular disease. This large study which has established the most powerful predictors of adverse outcomes, may enable care and resources to be better focused at high risk patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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