Background: While Canadian ED physicians discharge most syncope patients with no specific further follow-up, approximately 5% will suffer serious outcomes after ED discharge. The goal of this study is to prospectively identify risk factors and to derive a clinical decision tool to accurately predict those at risk for serious outcomes after ED discharge within 30 days.
Methods/design: We will conduct a prospective cohort study at 6 Canadian EDs to include adults with syncope and exclude patients with loss of consciousness>5 minutes, mental status changes from baseline, obvious witnessed seizure, or head trauma prior to syncope. Emergency physicians will collect standardized clinical variables including historical features, physical findings, and results of immediately available tests (blood, ECG, and ED cardiac monitoring) prior to ED discharge/hospital admission. A second emergency physician will evaluate approximately 10% of study patients for interobserver agreement calculation of predictor variables. The primary outcome will be a composite serious outcome occurring within 30 days of ED discharge and includes three distinct categories: serious adverse events (death, arrhythmia); identification of serious underlying disease (structural heart disease, aortic dissection, pulmonary embolism, severe pulmonary hypertension, subarachnoid hemorrhage, significant hemorrhage, myocardial infarction); or procedures to treat the cause of syncope. The secondary outcome will be any of the above serious outcomes either suspected or those occurring in the ED. A blinded Adjudication Committee will confirm all serious outcomes. Univariate analysis will be performed to compare the predictor variables in patients with and without primary outcome. Variables with p-values <0.2 and kappa values ≥ 0.60 will be selected for stepwise logistic regression to identify the risk factors and to develop the clinical decision tool. We will enroll 5,000 patients (with 125 positive for primary outcome) for robust identification of risk factors and clinical decision tool development.
Discussion: Once successfully developed, this tool will accurately risk-stratify adult syncope patients; however, validation and implementation will still be required. This program of research should lead to standardized care of syncope patients, and improve patient safety.