Author Interviews, Emergency Care, JAMA / 03.08.2022 Interview with: John A. Staples, MD, FRCPC, MPH Academic General Internist Vancouver General Hospital Clinical Assistant Professor at UBC  What is the background for this study?    Response: As a hospital-based general internist, I often see patients in the emergency department after an episode of syncope. Syncope is a medical term for suddenly losing consciousness (the public generally knows this as “fainting”). As you can imagine, fainting out of the blue can be very unnerving. Patients and clinicians worry that it may happen again and wonder whether it’s safe to drive. The first time I was asked this question, I remember scouring the research literature for an answer and not finding any robust evidence to guide my advice to patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Emergency Care, JAMA, Pulmonary Disease / 31.01.2018 Interview with: Giorgio Costantino MD Dipartimento di Medicina Interna Fondazione Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico Università degli Studi di Milano Milan, Italy What is the background for this study? Response: Syncope is a common symptom that occurs in one in four people during their lifetime. Pulmonary embolism (PE) has long been recognized as an important and serious cause of syncope. PE has always been estimated a rare cause of syncope, present in less than 1.5% of patients. A recent study (PESIT), aiming at evaluating PE prevalence using a standardized algorithm in hospitalized patients after a first syncope episode, found a prevalence of PE as high as 17% in hospitalized patients. This means that patients with a first episode of syncope should be investigated with a standard diagnostic algorithm to exclude PE. However, many patients might go through useless and potentially harmful tests, such as computed tomography pulmonary angiogram. (more…)
Author Interviews, Neurological Disorders, Pulmonary Disease / 24.10.2016 Interview with: Paolo Prandoni, M.D., Ph.D. and Department of Cardiovascular Sciences Vascular Medicine Unit University of Padua, Padua Sofia Barbar, M.D Department of Internal and Emergency Medicine Civic Hospital of Camposampiero Camposampiero WhaWhat are the main findings? Response: Syncope is defined as a sudden loss of consciousness due to transient global cerebral hypoperfusion characterized by rapid onset, short duration, and spontaneous complete recovery. According to the most recent guidelines, syncope can be classified as neurally-mediated, due to orthostatic hypotension and cardiovascular. Syncope is frequent in general population and represents up to 2% of all attendances in Emergency Department in Europe. The initial approach is unable to identify a plausible cause for syncope in 25-30% of cases and approximately 40% of syncope referred to an Emergency Department is then admitted to the hospital. Pulmonary embolism (PE) is an obstruction in the pulmonary arteries interfering with both blood circulation and gas exchange and therefore representing a potentially life-threatening event. Clinical features of PE are extremely variable. Available guidelines on syncope management consider PE as an infrequent cardiovascular cause of syncope. However, the true prevalence of pulmonary embolism in syncope-patients it is actually unknown. Moreover a workup for PE diagnosis in these patients is not suggested in the current guidelines. (more…)
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, Pharmacology / 04.07.2016 Interview with: Robert Sheldon, MD, PhD Division of Cardiology, Department of Cardiac Sciences University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Vasovagal syncope is very common and more debilitating than most people appreciate. Probably up to 50% of people faint from this in their lives, making it the most common cardiovascular symptom. Around 15-20 years ago we had learned that the recurrence rates for vasovagal syncope were quite high, and that quality of life was correspondingly low. From the results of our earlier Vasovagal Pacemaker Study II and Prevention of Syncope Trial I (POST I) we knew that neither pacemakers nor beta blockers helped most patients with vasovagal syncope. However there was ample evidence that a reduction in venous return and cardiac preload were important early steps in the vasovagal cascade. Florinef is a salt-retaining mineralocorticoid that is successful in treating orthostatic hypotension with tantalizing early evidence that it might prevent vasovagal syncope induced by tilt tests. We therefore set out to test whether it prevented vasovagal syncope in a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. One important early part of designing a clinical trial is estimating the event rate in the untreated and treated arms. Based on our earlier work we could predict the untreated event rate but there were no data on which we could estimate the treated outcome rate. We therefore surveyed numerous colleagues for what they considered a Minimal Clinically Important Difference, and the answer was a 40% relative risk reduction. That is, to make fludrocortisone appealing to clinicians it should cause a relative risk reduction of 40%. We used this estimate to design the study. There are two main conclusions.
  • First, we studied the right population, people who would clearly be considered for active biomedical treatment. They had fainted 15-20 times in their lives and 3-4 times in the preceding year.
  • Second, we found that fludrocortisone reduced syncope by 31%, and this narrowly missed conventional statistical significance. However when we adjusted for the first two weeks that were allotted for dose adjustment we found that fludrocortisone reduced syncope by up to 50% in people who were taking 0.2 mg daily. This is quite a low dose, deliberately picked to be safe in this young and predominantly female population.
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, JAMA / 29.02.2016 Interview with: Anna-Karin Numé MD, PhD student Copenhagen University Gentofte Hospital Department of Cardiology Cardiovascular Research Hellerup Denmark  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Numé: While it is obvious that a loss of consciousness while driving a car is very dangerous, what is not known is whether individuals who have had an episode of fainting (syncope) have a significantly higher risk of having car crashes in the future. Because about one third of patients with syncope are likely to have a recurrence, physicians face a difficult judgment about whether patients with syncope are fit to drive. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Numé: In this nationwide study of patients with syncope, having a history of syncope were associated with a 2-fold-higher risk of later motor vehicle crashes requiring medical attention at an emergency department or hospital compared with the general population – a risk that remained elevated throughout a follow-up of 5 years. This risk was small in absolute terms, yet raises important questions about policies towards driving. (more…)