Epidemiology of reflex syncope

N. Colman, K. Nahm, K. S. Ganzeboom, W. K. Shen, J. B. Reitsma, M. Linzer, W. Wieling, H. Kaufmann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

224 Scopus citations


Cost-effective diagnostic approaches to reflex syncope require knowledge of its frequency and causes in different age groups. For this purpose we reviewed the available literature dealing with the epidemiology of reflex syncope. The incidence pattern of reflex syncope in the general population and general practice is bimodal with peaks in teenagers and in the elderly. In the young almost all cases of transient loss of consciousness are due to reflex syncope. The life-time cumulative incidence in young females (≅ 50 %) is about twice as high as in males (≅ 25 %). In the elderly, cardiac causes, orthostatic and postprandial hypotension, and the effects of medications are common, whereas typical vasovagal syncope is less frequent. In emergency departments, cardiac causes and orthostatic hypotension are more frequent especially in elderly subjects. Reflex syncope, however, remains the most common cause of syncope, but all-cause mortality in subjects with reflex syncope is not higher than in the general population. This knowledge about the epidemiology of reflex syncope can serve as a benchmark to develop cost-effective diagnostic approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)i9-i17
JournalClinical Autonomic Research
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
■ Acknowledgement Supported by a grant from the Netherlands Heart Foundation (NHS 99.181) and an unrestricted educational grant from Medtronic Europe.


  • Epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Reflex syncope
  • Setting


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