Death After Emergency Department Visits for Syncope: How Common and Can It Be Predicted?

  • Quinn J
  • McDermott D
  • Kramer N
 et al. 
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Study objective: Syncope is a common condition that is usually benign but occasionally associated with death. This study evaluates the incidence of death after an emergency department (ED) visit for syncope and whether these deaths can be predicted. Methods: A prospective cohort study was conducted during a 45-month period. All patients were followed up 1-and-a-half years after their initial ED visit to determine whether they had died. Death certificates were independently reviewed by 2 physicians for the cause and date of death to determine whether the death was possibly related to the initial visit for syncope. Sensitivity and specificity of risk factors (defined by the San Francisco Syncope Rule) or age greater than 65 years was calculated for all-cause mortality and mortality thought possibly related to syncope. Results: There were 1418 consecutive patients with syncope during the study period, representing 1.2% of all ED visits. The all-cause death rate was 1.4% at 30 days, 4.3% at 6 months, and 7.6% at 1 year. It was believed that the death rates from causes possibly related to syncope were 2.3% and 3.8% at 6 months and 1 year. Of the 112 deaths at 1 year, 37% were cardiac related. At 6 months, the risk factors had a sensitivity of 89% (95% confidence interval [CI] 79% to 95%) and specificity of 53% (95% CI 52% to 53%) for all-cause mortality and sensitivity of 100% (95% CI 90% to 100%) and specificity 52% (95% CI 52% to 53%) for predicting deaths likely or possibly related to syncope. Age greater than 65 years had similar sensitivity but much worse specificity compared with the set combined risk factors. Conclusion: Deaths related to syncope after an ED visit are low, especially in the first 6 months and can usually be predicted by risk factors. © 2008 American College of Emergency Physicians.

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  • James Quinn

  • Daniel McDermott

  • Nathan Kramer

  • Clement Yeh

  • Michael A. Kohn

  • Ian Stiell

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