HealthDay News – About 1 of every 6 patients hospitalized for a first episode of syncope has a pulmonary embolism, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at 11 hospitals in Italy performed a systematic work-up for pulmonary embolism in 560 patients admitted for a first-time syncope episode. The patients were 76 years old, on average, and had been admitted to the hospital for various reasons: the cause of syncope was not apparent; there was reason to suspect a cardiovascular-related cause; they had other serious medical conditions; or they’d been injured when they fainted.

The team found that 17.3% — or roughly 1 in 6 — were diagnosed with pulmonary embolism. That included 13% of patients who’d had a potential alternative explanation for their syncope, such as a cardiovascular condition.


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“In elderly patients presenting with syncope, the attending physician in medical wards should consider pulmonary embolism as a possible differential diagnosis — particularly when an alternative explanation is not found,” study coauthor Sofia Barbar, MD, a physician at the Civic Hospital of Camposampiero in Padua, Italy, told HealthDay.

Reference

Prandoni P, Lensing AWA, Prins MH, et al; for the PESIT Investigators. Prevalence of pulmonary embolism among patients hospitalized for syncope. N Engl J Med. 2016 Oct 20;375:1524-1531. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1602172 [Epub ahead of print].