Orthostatic blood pressure recovery patterns in suspected syncope in the emergency department

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Abstract

Introduction

Orthostasis is a frequent trigger for (pre)syncope but some forms of orthostatic (pre)syncope have a worse prognosis than others. Routine assessment of orthostatic BP in the ED can detect classic orthostatic hypotension, but often misses these other forms of orthostatic (pre)syncope. This study aimed to determine the frequency of abnormal orthostatic BP recovery patterns in patients with (pre)syncope by using continuous non-invasive BP monitoring.

Methods

We performed a prospective cohort study in suspected patients with (pre)syncope in the ED of a tertiary care teaching hospital between January and August 2014. Orthostatic BP was measured during the active lying-to-standing test with Nexfin, a continuous non-invasive finger arterial pressure measurement device. Orthostatic BP recovery patterns were defined as normal BP recovery, initial orthostatic hypotension, delayed BP recovery, classic orthostatic hypotension and reflex-mediated hypotension.

Results

Of 116 patients recruited, measurements in 111 patients (age 63 years, 51% male) were suitable for analysis. Classic orthostatic hypotension was the most prevalent abnormal BP pattern (19%), but only half of the patients received a final diagnosis of orthostatic hypotension. Initial orthostatic hypotension and delayed BP recovery were present in 20% of the patients with (pre)syncope of whom 45% were diagnosed as unexplained syncope. Reflex-mediated hypotension was present in 4% of the patients.

Conclusion

Continuous non-invasive BP measurement can potentially identify more specific and concerning causes of orthostatic (pre)syncope. Correct classification is important because of different short-term and long-term clinical implications.

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