Treatment of Syncope

Syncope is a symptom that can be caused by many different factors. When it comes to treatment, there is no "one size fits all" approach, making an accurate diagnosis very important. Treatment should address the underlying cause of syncope.

Depending on the diagnosis, cardiovascular syncope may be stopped or controlled with one or more of the following therapies:

  • Simple reassurance, proper hydration, anticipatory guidance, safety precautions, and increased salt intake are helpful for common type fainting (vasovagal syncope) especially in children and young adults.
  • Insertion of a pacemaker is the standard treatment for syncope caused by a slow heartbeat (bradycardia). The pacemaker continuously monitors the heart's natural rhythm. It delivers an electrical impulse to stimulate (pace) the heart's muscle contractions if the heart rate drops below a certain number of beats per minute.
  • Treatment for a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) depends on whether it occurs in the upper chambers (atria) or lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. These treatments may include:
    • Medications to control irregular heart rhythms or underlying disease.
    • Catheter ablation, which is a procedure in which one or more flexible, thin wires (catheters) are inserted using x-ray or three dimensional computerized navigation system guidance into the blood vessels and directed to the heart muscle. Most commonly, a burst of energy heats and destroys very small areas of tissue that cause abnormal electrical signals.
    • Cardioversion is a controlled, electric shock that is delivered to restore the heart's normal rhythm. It is most often used to treat abnormal rhythms that come from the heart's upper chambers or atria.
    • An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a pacemaker-like device that continually monitors the heart, and delivers a life-saving shock if a dangerous heart rhythm is detected. The device significantly improves survival in certain groups of patients who are at high risk for a deadly heart rhythm disorder called ventricular fibrillation (VF). VF is the primary cause of sudden cardiac arrest, also known as sudden cardiac death.