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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.

Keywords: hypotension; sympathetic nervous system; syncope; vasovagal

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1445-5994.2010.02295.x

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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