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J Am Coll Cardiol. 1997 Feb;29(2):370-5.

High incidence of appropriate implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapy in patients with syncope of unknown etiology and inducible ventricular arrhythmias.

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Division of Cardiology, New England Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA. Mark.Link@e.s.NEMC.ORG



This study evaluates the hypothesis that in patients with syncope of unknown origin, inducible ventricular arrhythmias are specific arrhythmias and therefore should be appropriately treated.


Although syncope is a common clinical entity, the evaluation and treatment of patients with syncope without a clear etiology are not well defined. Many patients with syncope of undetermined origin undergo invasive electrophysiologic evaluation. Abnormalities of the sinus node, prolongation of conduction times or inducible arrhythmias found at these evaluations are usually assumed to be the cause of syncope and are therefore treated. However, whether tachyarrhythmias are truly the cause of syncope, and whether treatment of these tachyarrhythmias can prevent recurrent syncope and arrhythmic death, is unknown.


This study included 50 consecutive patients with syncope of undetermined origin, ventricular tachyarrhythmias at electrophysiologic evaluation and treatment with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.


Ventricular stimulation led to sustained monomorphic ventricular tachycardia in 36 patients, nonsustained ventricular tachycardia in 5 and ventricular fibrillation in 9. Over a 23 +/- 15-month (mean +/- SD) follow-up period, 18 patients received appropriate implantable cardioverter-defibrillator shock. Actuarial probability of appropriate therapy was 22% at 1 year and 50% at 3 years. Recurrent syncope was seen in five patients, three of whom had appropriate defibrillatory detections at the time of syncope. Four patients died (sudden death in one, congestive heart failure in two).


In patients with syncope of undetermined origin and inducible ventricular tachyarrhythmias, appropriate implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapy is common at follow-up. Sudden cardiac death is uncommon. This low incidence of sudden cardiac death and high incidence of appropriate defibrillator therapy support the current practice of using implantable cardioverter-defibrillators in patients with syncope of unknown origin and inducible ventricular arrhythmias.

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