Objectives: We sought to establish what historical findings are predictive of the cause of syncope.
Background: The clinical features of the various types of syncope have not been systematically investigated.
Methods: Three hundred forty-one patients with syncope were prospectively evaluated. Each patient was interviewed using a standard questionnaire. A cause of syncope was assigned using standardized diagnostic criteria.
Results: A cardiac cause of syncope was established in 23% of the patients, a neurally mediated cause in 58% and a neurologic or psychiatric cause in 1%, and in the remaining 18%, the cause of syncope remained unexplained. In a preliminary analysis including age, gender and the presence of suspected or certain heart disease after the initial evaluation, only heart disease was an independent predictor of a cardiac cause of syncope (odds ratio 16, p = 0.00001), with a sensitivity of 95% and a specificity of 45%. In contrast, the absence of heart disease allowed us to exclude a cardiac cause of syncope in 97% of the patients. In patients with certain or suspected heart disease, the most specific predictors of a cardiac cause were syncope in the supine position or during effort, blurred vision and convulsive syncope. Significant and specific predictors of a neurally mediated cause were time between the first and last syncopal episode >4 years, abdominal discomfort before the loss of consciousness and nausea and diaphoresis during the recovery phase. In the patients without heart disease, palpitation was the only significant predictor of a cardiac cause.
Conclusions: The presence of suspected or certain heart disease after the initial evaluation is a strong predictor of a cardiac cause of syncope. A few historical findings are useful to predict cardiac and neurally mediated syncope in patients with and without heart disease.