Syncope is among the most frequent forms of transient loss of consciousness (TLOC), and is characterized by a relatively brief and self-limited loss of consciousness that by definition is triggered by transient cerebral hypoperfusion. Most often, syncope is caused by a temporary drop of systemic arterial pressure below that required to maintain cerebral function, but brief enough not to cause permanent structural brain injury. Currently, approximately one-third of syncope/collapse patients seen in the emergency department (ED) or urgent care clinic are admitted to hospital for evaluation. The primary objective of developing syncope/TLOC risk stratification schemes is to provide guidance regarding the immediate prognostic risk of syncope patients presenting to the ED or clinic; thereafter, based on that risk assessment physicians may be better equipped to determine which patients can be safely evaluated as outpatients, and which require hospital care. In general, the need for hospitalization is determined by several key issues: i) the patient's immediate (usually considered 1 week to 1 month) mortality risk and risk for physical injury (e.g., falls risk), ii) the patient's ability to care for him/herself, and iii) whether certain treatments inherently require in-hospital initiation (e.g., pacemaker implantation). However, at present no single risk assessment protocol appears to be satisfactory for universal application, and development of a consensus recommendation is an essential next step.
- Emergency department
- Risk stratification