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Management strategies for recurrent vasovagal syncope

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Vasovagal syncope (VVS) is the commonest cause of recurrent syncope and has a high level of morbidity in both young and elderly patients. Diagnosis and treatment are often unsatisfactory despite the fact that syncope has a lifetime cumulative incidence of 35%. A detailed history can often yield an accurate diagnosis in most young patients. Older patients are more likely to present in an atypical manner and although the yield is low, a more comprehensive diagnostic assessment may be needed. It is important to identify patients with low supine systolic blood pressure who are prone to recurrent VVS. These patients represent a distinct subtype of VVS and may respond to a tailored therapeutic approach. Treatment options for VVS are limited because of a paucity of randomized trials. The backbone of therapy is educating the patient, avoiding precipitating factors, maintaining hydration and the application of physical counter-pressure manoeuvres. Drug therapy is rarely warranted; however, fludrocortisone, α-agonists, such as midodrine and dihydroergotamine, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be helpful in some patients. Permanent cardiac pacing is rarely needed and randomized trials do not support its use.
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Keywords: hypotension; sympathetic nervous system; syncope; vasovagal

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-08-01

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