Background: The purpose of this study was to assess the diagnostic value of recording the cardiac rhythm during presyncope in patients undergoing monitoring for undiagnosed syncope.
Methods and results: Eighty-five patients (age, 59 +/- 18 years; 44 men, 41 women) with recurrent unexplained syncope underwent prolonged monitoring with an implantable loop recorder. Patients were examined for syncope, which was either recurrent or associated with at least 2 presyncopal episodes. Patients had a mean of 5.1 +/- 5.5 syncopal episodes in the previous 12 months, and 70% of patients had symptoms for >2 years. Sixty-two (73%) patients had recurrent symptoms during a 12-month follow-up period. Of 150 recurrent events captured by the implantable loop recorder, there were 38 (25%) episodes of syncope and 112 (75%) episodes of presyncope. Syncope alone recurred in 12 patients, presyncope in 25, and both in 16. An arrhythmia was present in 64% of syncopal events (bradycardia in 16, tachycardia in 2) versus 25% for presyncopal events (bradycardia in 7, tachycardia in 3, P =.001). An arrhythmia was detected in 9 (56%) of the 16 patients with both syncope and presyncope, which was present in all recorded episodes of syncope compared with 6 of 9 presyncopal episodes. Patient-related failure to freeze the device after symptoms occurred in 21 (36%) of 59 syncopal events compared with 15 (12%) of 127 presyncopal events (P =.0001).
Conclusions: Syncope is more likely to be associated with an arrhythmia than is presyncope in patients undergoing extended monitoring. Presyncope is a nonspecific end point that is frequently associated with sinus rhythm. Patients undergoing extended monitoring for syncope should continue to be monitored after an episode of presyncope unless an arrhythmia is detected.