Multidisciplinary approach for diagnosing syncope: a retrospective study on 521 outpatients
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OBJECTIVES: To describe causes of syncope in outpatients in whom structural heart disease was ruled out as a cause, and to analyse the role of a multidisciplinary approach in a syncope unit for the diagnosis of patients with syncope of unknown origin. METHODS: Cardiovascular autonomic nervous system (ANS) function was evaluated extensively in 521 outpatients by careful history, physical examination including orthostatic blood pressure measurement and standard ECG, and tilt testing. RESULTS: Causes of syncope remained unknown in 29.2% of cases. ANS dysfunction was found in 58.6% of those presenting with either neurally mediated syncope (53.6%) or chronic autonomic failure (5%); 3.8% of the patients suffered from syncope of cardiogenic origin (2.5%) or non-neurogenic hypotension (1.3%), and 8.4% had loss of consciousness of non-syncopal origin. Loss of consciousness was confirmed as being related to seizures in under 30% of patients initially diagnosed as having epilepsy. CONCLUSIONS: Neurally mediated syncope represents the commonest type of syncope. ANS evaluation including tilt testing should be considered as preliminary screening in patients with syncope in the absence of definite heart abnormalities. Neurologists should consider syncope from ANS failure as a comorbid factor in patients with seizures where the clinical characteristics are not straightforward.
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