There Is No Such Thing As A Simple Faint – Why Are So Many Being Mis-diagnosed?

One in two of us will faint at some time in our lives and think nothing of it; for others, it may be the only symptom leading to sudden cardiac death.  So why are we led to believe it is ‘just a simple faint?’ UK-based leading international charity calls for greater recognition to save lives and to reduce the mis-diagnosis of epilepsy.

Research showed that 39% of children and 30% of adults diagnosed with epilepsy are in fact mis-diagnosed.  Many of those people may suddenly die from sudden cardiac death and yet mis-diagnosis and death can and should be avoided as fainting or unexplained loss of consciousness should be investigated for any underlying, potential fatal heart rhythm disorder.  Syncope is the Greek word for fainting and although not an illness it is a symptom which for many left undiagnosed and untreated can lead to death.  Hence Trudie Lobban MBE Founder of STARS says ‘there is no such thing as a simple faint – every faint or unexplained loss of consciousness should be investigated to identify the cause and treated accordingly’.

In a new report published today, STARS Healthcare Pioneers Report Showcasing Best Practice in Syncope 2022, highlights the innovative and inspiring work that is being done to improve care and quality of life for people experiencing an unexplained loss of consciousness or fainting (syncope).

Syncope symptoms vary from patient to patient, and from one faint to another but the most common symptoms are lightheadedness, dizziness, and nausea. Some people will feel very hot and clammy, sweaty, and complain of visual and hearing disturbances.  Many individuals become very pale. These symptoms are known as ‘pre-syncope’ and may or may not be followed by a complete loss of consciousness.

To inspire others to improve care services for patients with syncope, STARS called for healthcare teams to showcase their exemplary work in syncope services. The case studies were reviewed by an international panel of expert judges, with the winners published in the report and recognised as a ‘Centre of Excellence’.

Chair of STARS Medical Advisory Committee, Prof Richard Sutton reports: ’This prestigious awards are held annually in honour of Dr. Adam Fitzpatrick who spent his life researching syncope and why so many are mis-diagnosed, contributed so much to the diagnosis and management of syncope. He was a Pioneer in his field and established the first Rapid Access Blackout Clinic (RABC) in Manchester.

This year, we have received submissions from around the world with the five winners from USA, Canada, and Turkey. This is very impressive as it reflects so well on both Adam’s memory and STARS. I have no doubt that Adam would be proud of these results. It also reflects the lack of outlets for excellent work on syncope, this is sad for the nascent specialty but a great plus for STARS, an organisation which is dedicated to the care of syncope patients around the world and to the advancement of science within this field.

“There is no such thing as a simple faint as anyone who has experienced an episode will confirm.  For many who frequently lose consciousness it impacts on their everyday life, unable to drive, operate machinery or even care for their young children.  To be mis-diagnosed with epilepsy and to be treated with incorrect drugs and subsequent side-effects only adds to the challenges for those living with ‘a simple faint’.  To be recognised as a Centre of Excellence will not only encourage other hospitals to establish or improve their own services but also will enable people seeking a diagnosis to know they are seeing world-renowned experts. 

Lobban continues….Sudden cardiac death kills more people than lung cancer, breast cancer, and AIDs combined, and yet if diagnosed can be treated.  For many, the only symptom is loss of consciousness/fainting. Therefore, it is paramount that anyone with unexplained loss of consciousness should have their heart rhythm checked to rule out any underlying potentially fatal heart rhythm – this will save thousands of lives each and every year.  There is no such thing as a simple faint and STARS welcomes XXXX as a Centre of Excellence for delivering innovative and new services to improving outcomes for this group of patients.’

” says Mrs Trudie Lobban MBE Founder of STARS

The report can be accessed: www.syncopepioneers.org

For more information about syncope and POTS: www.stars-international.org

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