• syncope;
  • fainting;
  • practice variation;
  • National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey


Objectives: To describe the characteristics and admission patterns of patients with syncope presenting to U.S. emergency departments (EDs). Methods: The ED portion of the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 1992–2000, was analyzed. Nationally representative weighted estimates for incidence and admission rates were estimated and stratified by demographic variables. Presence of cardiovascular diagnoses on ED discharge was noted. Results: Of the 865 million ED visits during the nine-year study period, an estimated 6.7 million (0.77%; 95% confidence interval [95% CI] = 0.69% to 0.85%) were related to syncope. Higher incidences of ED visits for syncope were found in elder, female, and non-Hispanic patients compared with their reference groups. The overall admission rate was 32% (95% CI = 28% to 36%). Older, male, and white patients were admitted more frequently than their counterparts. Of patients older than 80 years of age, 58% (95% CI = 49% to 67%) were admitted. Associated cardiovascular International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9), codes for ischemic, structural, and arrhythmic heart disease were noted in 10% (95% CI = 8% to 13%) of patients, and 66% (95% CI = 56% to 76%) of these patients were admitted. Conclusions: Syncope is a frequent reason for ED visits and admissions. Elders and patients with associated cardiovascular diagnoses are frequently discharged, and admission practices appear to deviate from consensus panel guidelines.