Diagnostic value of history in patients with syncope with or without heart disease

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2001 Jun 1;37(7):1921-8. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(01)01241-4.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / complications*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Syncope / diagnosis*
  • Syncope / etiology*