Standardized approaches to the investigation of syncope: Canadian Cardiovascular Society position paper

Can J Cardiol. 2011 Mar-Apr;27(2):246-53. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2010.11.002.


Syncope is a very common presentation in the emergency department, and the combination of a wide differential diagnosis, a range of prognoses, and infrequent documentation of the faint leads to a high proportion of patients being admitted. These problems are mirrored in the investigation of inpatients with syncope, for which the high proportion of patients with benign outcomes and the profound risk aversion of health care providers make for expensive and inefficient assessment. Difficulties such as this in health services delivery can be improved by standardized approaches, such as guidelines, pathways, and checklists. Accordingly, emergency department decision rules, specialized syncope-monitoring units, and formal diagnostic algorithms have been developed to provide standardized approaches to the investigation of syncope. To provide guidance in the management of syncope, the Canadian Cardiovascular Society commissioned a position paper on standardized approaches to syncope investigation in adults. A primary panel first reviewed the literature systematically, then undertook iterative syntheses of data, and finally took positions with specific recommendations according to the GRADE framework. This paper summarizes the evidence and its quality and makes recommendations on the specific approaches meriting adoption. The position paper was then reviewed by a secondary panel, which provided suggestions for revisions leading to the final document as presented here. Overall, the position group concluded that there is little persuasive evidence that emergency department syncope rules and diagnostic syncope units provide efficient care and improved outcomes but that formal diagnostic algorithms with specialist support show promise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / standards*
  • Canada
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Cardiovascular / standards*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Societies, Medical*
  • Syncope / diagnosis*