Syncope is temporary loss of consciousness, described as "fainting" or "passing out." It's usually related to temporary insufficient blood flow to the brain. It most often occurs when the blood pressure is too low (hypotension) and the heart doesn't pump a normal supply of oxygen to the brain.

Syncope can be caused by stress, pain, pooling of blood in the legs due to sudden changes in body position, overheating, dehydration, or exhaustion. It may occur during violent coughing spells due to rapid changes in blood pressure. It may also result from a heart, neurologic, psychiatric, metabolic or lung disorder. It can also occur as a side effect of some medicines.

Treatments for Syncope

With the state-of-the-art equipment and technology at the Fred & Lena Meijer Heart Center, you are in the best place to access the latest treatments for syncope. What truly sets us apart, though, is the way we care for you. Spectrum Health electrophysiologists not only work together to come up with the best care plans for our patients, but also to deliver the best patient experience possible.

For example, when we implant pacemakers, we safely and effectively let patients go home the same day, rather than spending a night in the hospital. The next day, the patient’s device is checked remotely via the Internet. This keeps costs down, has proven to be just as safe, and it makes patients happier to be home in the comfort of their own beds. No other comparable electrophysiology program in the nation is able to do this like Spectrum Health.

Ablation Procedures
This procedure guides a wire into your heart to destroy small areas of heart tissue that may be causing your abnormal heartbeat. Heat (radiofrequency) or cold energy (cryoablation) are the two most common ways to destroy abnormal heart tissue. It's an alternative to long-term or lifelong medication therapy.

Cardiac Rhythm Monitoring
With consistent check-ins and some assisted mechanical devices we can keep an eye on your heart rhythm, helping to understand and diagnose certain heart disease.

Catheter-Based Mapping
This is a minimally invasive procedure that identifies the location of heart rhythm abnormalities in the heart so treatments like ablation can be more effective.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator
This device combines the steady regulation of a pacemaker with the ability to shock the heart back into rhythm. It is used to treat congestive heart failure as well as arrhythmia, which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

Medication Management
Along with very important lifestyle changes, there are a variety of medicines used to help treat heart conditions. Medicines for heart disease are used to ease discomfort or lessen symptoms, but some can also be essential in preventing life-threatening episodes. It is important to take your medicines exactly as prescribed, and work with your doctor on both lifestyle and medicine changes.

Your doctor may recommend a pacemaker to stimulate a faster heart rate when your heart beats too slow and the problem can't be fixed with other treatments.

Stereotaxis Navigation
A method of ablation that offers a more precise, and potentially more effective, delivery of the treatment.

What Is Syncope?

Syncope means fainting.

What Causes Syncope?

People faint most often because of a sudden drop in blood pressure from standing up too fast.

The usual cause is related to not enough blood flow to the brain, so not enough oxygen gets to the brain. Blood collecting in veins in the lower body because of gravity (venous pooling) or straining (Valsalva’s maneuver) may prevent blood from reaching the brain. Damaged or stiff blood vessels and abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) may also reduce blood flow.

Low blood pressure, ineffective pumping by the heart because of heart disease (heart failure), or heart valve abnormalities may cause fainting, as can anemia (low red blood cell count), drugs (especially those for high blood pressure), lung diseases, and too much water loss from the body (dehydration).

One type of fainting called vasovagal syncope refers to overstimulation of the vagus nerve, which lowers blood pressure and causes fainting. This type may occur with anxiety, pain, urination, or coughing.

What Are the Symptoms of Syncope?

Symptoms are sudden brief loss of consciousness, and heart rate may be too fast or irregular (palpitations) or too slow.

How Is Syncope Diagnosed?

The health care provider will diagnose syncope on the basis of a history of fainting or feeling faint.

The health care provider will obtain a medical history, do a physical examination and electrocardiography (ECG), and take blood pressure with the person in different positions (lying, sitting, standing, after exercise). Tilt table testing is a test done by specialists when the cause of syncope is unclear. It can check for symptoms with the body in different positions.

Blood sugar (glucose) level and blood count (hematocrit) may be checked.

If an irregular heartbeat is suspected, the health care provider may use a Holter monitor, a device worn at home and work to monitor the heart rhythm.

How Is Syncope Treated?

If not enough blood is pumped by the heart, the heart’s condition must be checked. The health care provider may suggest seeing a heart specialist (cardiologist) for additional tests.

For people with low blood pressure (hypotension) or heart disease, drugs that may be causing fainting are stopped on a trial basis.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Syncope:
  • DO keep a record of fainting, for example, it happens when you suddenly stand from being seated.
  • DO eat a proper diet and drink enough fluids. These are needed for avoiding fainting caused by low blood sugar and dehydration.
  • DO sit or lie down if you feel faint, to help improve blood flow to the brain. Drink plenty of fluids once you are able to drink. If you are a diabetic and have low blood sugar, eat something.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have fainting with chest pain, shortness of breath, or history of heart disease.
  • DON’T ignore any fainting episodes. Call your health care provider.
  • DON’T put yourself in situations such as driving that make your fainting worse.

Contact the following source:

  • American Heart Association
    Tel: (800) 242-8721

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor