How is syncope differentiated from first adult seizure?

Updated: Nov 30, 2017
  • Author: Eissa Ibrahim AlEissa, MD, MBBS; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Answer

In syncope, several historical features can be helpful. When an accurate description is missing (eg, unwitnessed event), the distinction between syncope and seizures can be difficult, because it is based on history alone; however, several symptoms are helpful in aiding the diagnosis. [27, 29] These include the circumstances of the attacks, because the most common mechanism for syncope (vasovagal response) is typically triggered by known precipitants (eg, pain such as inflicted by medical procedures, emotions, cough, micturition, hot environment, prolonged standing, exercise).

Other historical features that favor syncope include “presyncopal” prodromes (eg, vertigo, dizziness, lightheadedness, chest pain, nausea), as well as age and a history of cardiovascular disease. Historical features that favor seizures include tongue biting, head turning, posturing, urinary incontinence, cyanosis, prodromal déjà-vu, and postictal confusion. [27, 29] A point system using most of these features was designed, with a reported 94% sensitivity and specificity for the diagnosis of seizures. [29]


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