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Emergency Medical Minute


Apr 22, 2019

Author:  Michael Hunt, MD

Educational Pearls:


  • Most causes of syncope are benign
  • Pulmonary embolism can result in syncope and is life threatening
  • A recent study of Canadian and US ED patients with syncope showed that 0.4% of patients had a PE at 30 day follow-up
  • PE should always be considered in cases of syncope but overall is a rare cause


Editor’s note: this study puts to rest a previous study from 2016 that reported a rate of PE in syncope as high as 1 in 6 in patients admitted to syncope - which was met with much skepticism based on clinical practice.


Roncon L, Zuin M, Casazza F, Becattini C, Bilato C, Zonzin P. Impact of syncope and pre-syncope on short-term mortality in patients with acute pulmonary embolism. Eur J Intern Med. 2018 Aug;54:27-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2018.04.004. Epub 2018 Apr 11. PubMed PMID: 29655808.

Summarized by Will Dewispelaere, MS3 | Edited by Erik Verzemnieks, MD