Patients with brief loss of consciousness (fainting/blackout) are reviewed by a team of cardiologists and neurologists with a special interest in collapses.
Frequently Asked Questions about Blackouts:
What is a Blackout?
A Blackout is a transient loss of consciousness. Synonymous terms are faint, collapse, syncope.
How common are Blackouts?
Blackouts are very common occurring for the most part in two age groups, the teenage years and during older age. About 40-50% of all people will have a blackout or near blackout event.
What are the Causes?
There many causes of blackouts. Most cases are due to common faint caused by a short-term reduction in blood pressure to the brain.
Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) can cause blackouts and in that case things are more serious.
Neurological disorders such as epilepsy, cerebro-vascular events-strokes are not uncommon have a completely different presentation but need immediate attention.
Psychogenic blackouts are caused by excessive stress that controls the brain and make the body collapse without an organic pathological cause.
Are blackouts dangerous?
Most Blackouts are completely benign and hence not dangerous. Some require treatment with good long-term prognosis. Few can be life-threatening and need urgent attention from a blackout specialist (Cardiologist/Electrophysiologist and/or Neurologist)
Do I need to have any tests?
Most people can be reassured after history and examination by a specialist. In that case no tests are needed.
In general it is a good idea to have an ECG (Electrocardiogram) and an ECHO (echocardiogram) as these two test if are normal are related with good long-term prognosis.
If symptoms suggest of arrhythmia i.e. palpitation, collapsing in sitting position, a monitor can be fitted to record the heart rhythm over a prolonged period of time.
If blackout occurs on exercise then an Exercise Tolerance Test is an option.
If a Neurological cause is suspected an EEG (Electroencephalography) or brain
Imaging (CT, MRI), might be required.
How can Blackouts be prevented or treated?
There are various ways you can manage Blackouts but this depends on the cause. The cause can be identified by the specialist and the treatment can then vary from lifestyle measures (increase salt and fluid intake, avoid standing for long period of time) to medications (antiepileptic) or implantable devices (pacemakers, defibrillators).
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