Effect of Citalopram for the Treatment of Neurocardiogenic Syncope

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Abstract

Background:

Neurocardiogenic syncope (NCS) is a common form of syncope. Although selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other medications have been used to treat NCS with variable success, there is no consensus regarding a first-line therapy.

Study Question:

To assess the effects of citalopram in NCS and to examine the effect of diagnostic use of the head-up tilt table (HUTT) versus empirical diagnosis on patient outcome.

Study Design:

A retrospective case series of 1000 consecutive patients who were diagnosed with NCS and treated with citalopram.

Measures and Outcomes:

The primary outcome measure was well-being score (WS) recorded at each outpatient visit.

Results:

After excluding patients who had other comorbidities, were taking daily medication, or did not attend a follow-up visit within 1 month after treatment initiation, data from 186 patients were included. Thirty-five patients were diagnosed empirically, and 151 patients were diagnosed with the HUTT. All 186 patients were followed up within 1 month (early follow-up); of these, 92 patients attended a second follow-up after 1 month (late follow-up). The early follow-up group showed a significant improvement in mean WS (7.35 vs. 4.46, P < 0.001) and only 5 patients discontinued therapy because of intolerability. The late follow-up group also showed significant improvements in mean WS at the early follow-up (7.42 vs. 4.43, P < 0.001) and late follow-up (7.42 vs. 4.26, P < 0.001). Of 186 patients who were treated with citalopram, only 11 reported the development of undesirable side effects. There was no significant difference in the outcome of patients who were diagnosed empirically versus those who were diagnosed with the HUTT.

Conclusions:

Citalopram seems to have desirable effects on NCS and patient well-being. Diagnostic use of the HUTT is useful for confirming diagnoses of NCS but is not likely to improve patient outcome.

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