Syncope in children and adolescents

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1997 Apr;29(5):1039-45. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(97)00020-x.


Objectives: The objectives of this study were to 1) define the incidence of syncope coming to medical attention among children and adolescents, 2) determine the outcome of syncope in these patients, and 3) determine changes over time in the evaluation and charges for evaluating this problem.

Background: Syncope occurs commonly in children and adolescents. However, the mid- and long-term outcome of children and adolescents who experience syncope is unknown.

Methods: Utilizing the Rochester Epidemiology Project, we determined the incidence, outcome and charges for medical evaluation for patients seeking medical attention for syncope during an early 5-year period (1950 to 1954) and a more recent 5-year period (1987 to 1991).

Results: The incidence of syncope coming to medical attention was 71.9 and 125.8/100,000 population for the early and more recent cohort, respectively. The incidence was higher for female than for male patients. The incidence peaked in 15- to 19-year old patients. Acute illness and noxious stimuli were associated with 24% and 23% of the episodes, respectively. Although long-term survival was not different from that of the general population, one child died suddenly, and another had hereditary prolonged QT interval syndrome. These were two of only six patients who had exertional syncope. Total charges for evaluation of syncope were similar in the two time periods. However, charges for testing procedures were greater for the more recent cohort.

Conclusions: In general, syncope in children and adolescents is a benign event. Syncope occurring during exercise may identify patients with a potentially fatal condition. Detailed evaluation should be considered for patients who have syncope during exercise or who have a family history of syncope, sudden death, myocardial disease or arrhythmias. It may be prudent to obtain an electrocardiogram for all patients who seek medical attention for syncope.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Syncope / epidemiology*
  • Syncope / etiology
  • Syncope, Vasovagal / epidemiology