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Minerva Medica 2009 August;100(4):275-92


language: English

Neurally-mediated sincope

Can I. 1, 2, Cytron J. 1, 2, Jhanjee R. 1, 2, Nguyen J. 1, 2, Benditt D. G. 1, 2

1 Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Division, Cardiac Arrhythmia Center, University of Minnesota Medical School Minneapolis, MN, USA 2 Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, IL, USA


Syncope is a syndrome characterized by a relatively sudden, temporary and self-terminating loss of consciousness; the causes may vary, but they have in common a temporary inadequacy of cerebral nutrient flow, usually due to a fall in systemic arterial pressure. However, while syncope is a common problem, it is only one explanation for episodic transient loss of consciousness (TLOC). Consequently, diagnostic evaluation should start with a broad consideration of real or seemingly real TLOC. Among those patients in whom TLOC is deemed to be due to “true syncope”, the focus may then reasonably turn to assessing the various possible causes; in this regard, the neurally-mediated syncope syndromes are among the most frequently encountered. There are three common variations: vasovagal syncope (often termed the “common” faint), carotid sinus syndrome, and the so-called “situational faints”. Defining whether the cause is due to a neurally-mediated reflex relies heavily on careful history taking and selected testing (e.g., tilt-test, carotid massage). These steps are important. Despite the fact that neurally-mediated faints are usually relatively benign from a mortality perspective, they are nevertheless only infrequently an isolated event; neurally-mediated syncope tends to recur, and physical injury resulting from falls or accidents, diminished quality-of-life, and possible restriction from employment or avocation are real concerns. Consequently, defining the specific form and developing an effective treatment strategy are crucial. In every case the goal should be to determine the cause of syncope with sufficient confidence to provide patients and family members with a reliable assessment of prognosis, recurrence risk, and treatment options.

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