Neurocardiogenic syncope: mechanisms, evaluation and treatment

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Abstract

Syncope is the abrupt and transient loss of consciousness due to a temporary reduction in cerebral blood flow, associated with an absence of postural tone, followed by a rapid and usually complete recovery. It may result from several possible etiologies, ranging from the benign to the potentially fatal. Neurocardiogenic (vasovagal) syncope is the most common of a group of neurally mediated syncopes, characterized by a sudden failure of autonomic regulatory mechanisms to maintain adequate blood pressure and, occasionally, heart rate, to sustain cerebral perfusion and consciousness. The diagnosis may be suggested by a characteristic history and by exclusion of other causes of syncope; however, in some cases, upright tilt table testing may be required to provoke typical hemodynamic responses. Cardiologists and cardiac electrophysiologists are frequently expected to manage patients with suspected neurocardiogenic syncope. The following review aims to provide a basic framework for understanding its pathophysiology, clinical presentations, diagnosis and treatment.

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