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Fainting (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

Because fainting can be caused by a serious condition, all episodes of fainting should be taken seriously. Anyone who has a first episode of fainting needs to be evaluated by a health care practitioner as soon as possible. If the patient has a history of fainting and a specific diagnosis explaining the syncopal episodes, they should still make the health care practitioner aware that he or she had another episode of fainting. The health care practitioner can decide if the patient needs to be evaluated. Although most people with a history of vasovagal, situational, or postural causes of fainting do not require hospitalization, many doctors prefer to have anyone that faints or has a "short loss of consciousness" be examined by a health care professional.

Fainting Diagnosis

  • Most diagnoses are made through a thorough medical history and physical examination along with an electrocardiogram, or ECG (heart tracing). Based on the findings during the medical history and physical exam, further tests might be ordered to find the underlying cause of the syncopal episode. As part of the medical history, it is important to document whether or not the patient hit his or her head during the fall. A closed head injury can complicate the evaluation and treatment of an episode of fainting.

Cardiac syncope: If a cardiac cause is suspected, several tests are available. Most are used to identify coronary heart disease, heart valve problems, heart failure, or arrhythmias. In addition to the EKG, an echocardiogram of the heart will often be part of the evaluation.

Noncardiac syncope: Testing depends on the suspected cause. A CT scan is rarely useful but might be ordered. Head-up tilt testing is useful to diagnose vasovagal syncope.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/27/2016

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Syncope and Related Paroxysmal Spells »

Syncope is a term used to describe the loss of consciousness from temporary disruption of cerebral oxygenation.

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