Diagnostic algorithm for syncope

Auton Neurosci. 2014 Sep;184:10-6. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2014.05.008. Epub 2014 May 24.


Syncope is a common symptom with many causes. Affecting a large proportion of the population, both young and old, it represents a significant healthcare burden. The diagnostic approach to syncope should be focused on the initial evaluation, which includes a detailed clinical history, physical examination and 12-lead electrocardiogram. Following the initial evaluation, patients should be risk-stratified into high or low-risk groups in order to guide further investigations and management. Patients with high-risk features should be investigated further to exclude significant structural heart disease or arrhythmia. The ideal currently-available investigation should allow ECG recording during a spontaneous episode of syncope, and when this is not possible, an implantable loop recorder may be considered. In the emergency room setting, acute causes of syncope must also be considered including severe cardiovascular compromise due to pulmonary, cardiac or vascular pathology. While not all patients will receive a conclusive diagnosis, risk-stratification in patients to guide appropriate investigations in the context of a diagnostic algorithm should allow a benign prognosis to be maintained.

Keywords: Diagnostic algorithm; Syncope.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Humans
  • Physical Examination / methods
  • Risk
  • Syncope / diagnosis*
  • Syncope / physiopathology