Management of Stokes-Adams syndrome

Cardiology. 1990;77(3):195-208. doi: 10.1159/000174601.


Stokes-Adams attacks are related to paroxysmal or chronic atrioventricular (AV) block (50-60%), sinoatrial (SA) block (30-40%) or paroxysmal tachycardia or fibrillation (0-5%). In between attacks most patients present with sinus rhythm, a large part with widened QRS complex. A minor proportion of patients present with chronic AV block. ECG is very rarely normal. Diagnosis is based on ECG recording during fainting. In patients with sinus rhythm and bundle-branch block or AV block, ECG monitoring should be performed in hospital, since Stokes-Adams syndrome in these patients is a potentially life-threatening disease. In sick sinus syndrome where the suspected arrhythmia is not life-threatening, ambulatory ECG by Holter monitoring can be performed to establish the diagnosis. In cases where ECG monitoring leaves doubt, an electrophysiologic study including His bundle electrography and sinus node recovery time may support the diagnosis, although normal findings do not preclude the diagnosis. Pacemaker implantation should be performed in Stokes-Adams syndrome, as oral drug treatment is ineffective. The dual-chamber pacemaker presents the advantages of both physiological heart rate and AV synchrony, but has troublesome side effects. Most patients with tachycardia/bradycardia syndromes require supplementary anti-arrhythmic treatment, and in some patients additional long-term anticoagulation should be considered.

MeSH terms

  • Adams-Stokes Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Adams-Stokes Syndrome* / etiology
  • Adams-Stokes Syndrome* / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electrocardiography
  • Heart Block / diagnosis
  • Heart Block / etiology
  • Humans
  • Pacemaker, Artificial
  • Sick Sinus Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Sick Sinus Syndrome / therapy
  • Syncope / diagnosis