Did This Patient Have Cardiac Syncope?: The Rational Clinical Examination Systematic Review.

Published

Journal Article

Importance: Syncope can result from a reduction in cardiac output from serious cardiac conditions, such as arrhythmias or structural heart disease (cardiac syncope), or other causes, such as vasovagal syncope or orthostatic hypotension. Objective: To perform a systematic review of studies of the accuracy of the clinical examination for identifying patients with cardiac syncope. Study Selection: Studies of adults presenting to primary care, emergency departments, or referred to specialty clinics. Data Extraction and Synthesis: Relevant data were abstracted from articles in databases through April 9, 2019, and methodologic quality was assessed. Included studies had an independent comparison to a reference standard. Main Outcomes and Measures: Sensitivity, specificity, and likelihood ratios (LRs). Results: Eleven studies of cardiac syncope (N = 4317) were included. Age at first syncope of at least 35 years was associated with greater likelihood of cardiac syncope (n = 323; sensitivity, 91% [95% CI, 85%-97%]; specificity, 72% [95% CI, 66%-78%]; LR, 3.3 [95% CI, 2.6-4.1]), while age younger than 35 years was associated with a lower likelihood (LR, 0.13 [95% CI, 0.06-0.25]). A history of atrial fibrillation or flutter (n = 323; sensitivity, 13% [95% CI, 6%-20%]; specificity, 98% [95% CI, 96%-100%]; LR, 7.3 [95% CI, 2.4-22]), or known severe structural heart disease (n = 222; range of sensitivity, 35%-51%, range of specificity, 84%-93%; range of LR, 3.3-4.8; 2 studies) were associated with greater likelihood of cardiac syncope. Symptoms prior to syncope that were associated with lower likelihood of cardiac syncope were mood change or prodromal preoccupation with details (n = 323; sensitivity, 2% [95% CI, 0%-5%]; specificity, 76% [95% CI, 71%-81%]; LR, 0.09 [95% CI, 0.02-0.38]), feeling cold (n = 412; sensitivity, 2% [95% CI, 0%-5%]; specificity, 89% [95% CI, 85%-93%]; LR, 0.16 [95% CI, 0.06-0.64]), or headache (n = 323; sensitivity, 3% [95% CI, 0%-7%]; specificity, 80% [95% CI, 75%-85%]; LR, 0.17 [95% CI, 0.06-0.55]). Cyanosis witnessed during the episode was associated with higher likelihood of cardiac syncope (n = 323; sensitivity, 8% [95% CI, 2%-14%]; specificity, 99% [95% CI, 98%-100%]; LR, 6.2 [95% CI, 1.6-24]). Mood changes after syncope (n = 323; sensitivity, 3% [95% CI, 0%-7%]; specificity, 83% [95% CI, 78%-88%]; LR, 0.21 [95% CI, 0.06-0.65]) and inability to remember behavior prior to syncope (n = 323; sensitivity, 5% [95% CI, 0%-9%]; specificity, 82% [95% CI, 77%-87%]; LR, 0.25, [95% CI, 0.09-0.69]) were associated with lower likelihood of cardiac syncope. Two studies prospectively validated the accuracy of the multivariable Evaluation of Guidelines in Syncope Study (EGSYS) score, which is based on 6 clinical variables. An EGSYS score of less than 3 was associated with lower likelihood of cardiac syncope (n = 456; range of sensitivity, 89%-91%, range of specificity, 69%-73%; range of LR, 0.12-0.17; 2 studies). Cardiac biomarkers show promising diagnostic accuracy for cardiac syncope, but diagnostic thresholds require validation. Conclusions and Relevance: The clinical examination, including the electrocardiogram as part of multivariable scores, can accurately identify patients with and without cardiac syncope.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Albassam, OT; Redelmeier, RJ; Shadowitz, S; Husain, AM; Simel, D; Etchells, EE

Published Date

  • June 25, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 321 / 24

Start / End Page

  • 2448 - 2457

PubMed ID

  • 31237649

Pubmed Central ID

  • 31237649

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1538-3598

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1001/jama.2019.8001

Language

  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States