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Clinical Specialties - Cardiac

Diagnosis & Treatment

How can I be diagnosed?

It is important to take fainting or a syncopal episode seriously as it could be the result of an underlying medical issue.  Diagnosis can be difficult and misdiagnosis can be common.

If you have experienced syncope (fainting) you should see your General Practitioner (GP) and request a referral to a syncope expert for complete evaluation.  The evaluation should include a careful review of your medical history combined with a physical assessment of your ability to perform certain activities. The syncope expert will ask you detailed questions about your symptoms and the nature of your syncopal episodes as well as whether you experienced any 'premonitory' symptoms before you fainted.

You may then have one or more tests to help the specialist determine the cause of your syncope. These tests check things like the structure and condition of your heart along with electrical activity (rhythm) and blood pressure when standing and lying.

In some instances, syncope is not diagnosed until people present at emergency for a secondary issue such as head trauma or broken bones from falling after a fainting episode.

If you present at emergency you will be closely monitored and any injuries sustained will be treated. You will have blood taken to assess a number of factors which may assist the doctors in determining why you have experienced this episode. In some instances, you will need to stay in hospital for observation, particularly if you have more than one episode or if the episode occurs without any warning signs. You may be required to have any number of the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) - which looks at the electrical activity of the heart
  • Further tests of the heart such as an ultrasound (echocardiogram) or a heart rhythm monitor which can be worn at home 


If you do not present to emergency or if a diagnosis has not been determined, it is important to ensure that you get a thorough evaluation and assessment by a trusted team of experts. 

The San’s Blackouts & Faints Clinic is staffed by a team of experienced syncope experts. It provides a 'one-stop' resource for people experiencing syncope and where there is no obvious reason for the faints or blackouts. It is the only private clinic of its kind in Sydney providing bulk-billed clinic tests during your appointment as well as a multidisciplinary approach to patient assessment and evaluation. 

What are the treatment options?

Your treatment options will vary depending on the cause of your syncope and the results determined from your evaluation and testing. The goal of treatment is to keep you from having further episodes of syncope.

Treatment options will differ depending on the diagnosis (ie cardiac, neurological, reflex, orthostatic etc) and could include:

  • Making changes to your diet and increasing salt and fluid intake
  • Taking medications or altering existing medications
  • Wearing compression stockings to improve blood circulation
  • Being extra cautious when you stand up
  • Avoiding the 'triggers' that cause a syncope episode
  • Treatment for structural heart disease
  • Implanting a pacemaker to keep your heart rate regular (only needed for patients with certain medical conditions)
  • Implanting a cardiac monitoring device to determine and correct rhythm abnormalities


Once the cause of your syncope has been accurately diagnosed you can then seek the appropriate treatment from a trusted specialist. Your specialist and other members of your healthcare team will develop a treatment plan that is right for you and talk to you about your options. 

 

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Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical Specialties and Services