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Fainting: Is This A Serious Symptom?

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Dr. Kaplan explains when fainting is considered a serious heart or circulatory symptom. Dr. Kaplan is a cardiac electrophysiologist at Banner Heart Hospital in Mesa, Arizona.

Dr. Kaplan:
If you have passed out that may be a very important indicator of a serious problem with your heart rhythm or with the control of your circulation. It is very important to recognize that this is not a typical or common sort of symptom and should be evaluated further.

Women are different from men in terms of their predisposition to life threatening rhythm problems, specifically from a genetic abnormality called long QT syndrome. This is related to abnormalities in the way the heart’s electrical system resets itself and maybe predispose to having somebody at risk for sudden death.

Women are more predisposed to having sensitivity to certain medications that can change the electrical system of their heart and make them prone to these rhythm problems.

The most common reason why people pass out is from a condition called neurocardiogenic syncope or vasovagal syncope. We otherwise relate to this as the common faint. There are classic situations in which this may occur such as standing out in the heat or in situations of extreme emotional states such as fright or with pain and I have seen women who have passed out at the time of their menses because of severe abdominal cramps.

This rhythm problem, while benign and not life-threatening, certainly can result in injury and cause significant morbidity and should be evaluated. The most common test that we use to evaluate for syncope is called the tilt-table study. This is a procedure done at the hospital in which patients are laid down upon a table and then stood up resting against it. During this time we monitor their vital signs and look for any changes in the way the brain regulates heart rate and blood pressure.

It’s also very important for anybody who has passed out to have a baseline electrocardiogram to look for certain changes that may suggest a predisposition towards a serious rhythm problem and also patients usually will undergo an echocardiogram. This will allow us to look to see if there are any structural abnormalities to the heart that may predispose them to rhythm problems.

Family history is also very important in the setting of syncope. It’s important to know whether other family members, especially women, may have previously experienced passing out or sudden cardiac death.

About Dr. Andrew Kaplan, M.D.:
Dr. Kaplan is a cardiac electrophysiologist at Banner Heart Hospital in Mesa, Arizona. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. in 1983, he attended medical school at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas. He later went on to do his residency in Internal Medicine, at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Dr. Kaplan did cardiovascular and electrophysiology fellowship at Emory University School of Medicine and served as Chief Resident in Internal Medicine at the Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

Conditions: Arrhythmia, Supraventricular Tachycardia, Cardiac Rhythm Disorders

Related Terms: Palpitations, Heartbeat, Estrogen, Premature Beats, EKG, Premature Contractions, Irregular Heart Rhythm, Echocardiogram, Syncope, Cardiac Death

Expert: Dr. Andrew Kaplan, Andrew Kaplan, MD, Cardiology, Dr. Andrew J. Kaplan, M.D., Doctor Kaplan

Expertise: Electrophysiologist, Heart Rhythm Center, Robotic Catheter Ablation, 3D Heart Mapping, Arrhythmia Treatments, Heart Disease Prevention, SVT, Sinus Node Dysfunction, Sick Sinus Syndrome, Long QT Syndrome, Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Atrial fibrillation, AFIB , Hansen Robotic System, RF Radio Frequency Ablation, Cryoablation

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