Journal Article

Management of syncope referred urgently to general hospitals with and without syncope units

M. Brignole, M. Disertori, C. Menozzi, A. Raviele, P. Alboni, M. V. Pitzalis, P. Delise, E. Puggioni, M. Del Greco, V. Malavasi, M. Lunati, M. Pepe and D. Fabrizi

in EP Europace

Published on behalf of European Heart Rhythm Association of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC)

Volume 5, issue 3, pages 293-298
Published in print July 2003 | ISSN: 1099-5129
Published online July 2003 | e-ISSN: 1532-2092 | DOI:
Management of syncope referred urgently to general hospitals with and without syncope units

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We tested the hypothesis that management of patients with syncope admitted urgently to a general hospital may be influenced by the presence of an in-hospital structured syncope unit.


The management of syncope is not standardized.


We compared six hospitals equipped with a syncope unit organized inside the department of cardiology with six matched hospitals without such facilities. The study enroled all consecutive patients referred to the emergency room from 5 November 2001 to 7 December 2001 who were affected by transient loss of consciousness as their principal symptom.


There were 279 patients in the syncope unit hospitals and 274 in the control hospitals. In the study group, 30 (11%) patients were referred to the syncope unit for evaluation. In the study group, 12% fewer patients were hospitalized (43 vs 49%, not significant) and 8% fewer tests were performed (3.3±2.2 vs 3.6±2.2 per patient, not significant). In particular, the study group patients underwent fewer basic laboratory tests (75 vs 86%, P=0.002), fewer brain-imaging examinations (17 vs 24%, P=0.05), fewer echocardiograms (11 vs 16%, P=0.04), more carotid sinus massage (13 vs 8%, P=0.03) and more tilt testing (8 vs 1%, P=0.000). In the study group, there was a +56% rate of final diagnosis of neurally mediated syncope (56 vs 36%, P=0.000).


Although only a minority of patients admitted as an emergency are referred to the syncope unit, overall management is substantially affected. It is speculated that the use of a standardized approach, such as that typically adopted in the syncope unit, is able to influence overall practice in the hospital.

Keywords: Syncope; diagnosis; emergency medicine; syncope unit

Journal Article.  2899 words. 

Subjects: Cardiovascular Medicine

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