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Diagnosing Syncope

Syncope is loss of consciousness (fainting). Your doctor will ask you about your fainting episode and health history. You will also be examined. You may need 1 or more tests.

Health History and Exam

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You may be asked about:

  • Where and when you fainted, and how long you were unconscious

  • How you felt just before and right after you fainted

  • Any family history of heart disease or fainting

  • Any cardiac or neurological problems you may have

  • Any medications you may be taking

Your doctor will examine you. Your doctor may:

  • Check your blood pressure several times while lying down, sitting, and standing 

  • Listen for any heart murmurs or abnormal heartbeats

  • Examine your eyes, reflexes, and limb movement


You may need 1 of more of the following tests:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). This can help your doctor find a slow or a fast heartbeat.

  • Holter monitoring. You wear a portable ECG monitor for 24 hours. It records your heartbeat.

  • Event monitoring. You wear a portable ECG monitor for several weeks. It records your heartbeat.

  • Echocardiogram. This test takes pictures of your heart. It can show heart valve or heart function problems. Or it can reveal damage from a heart attack.

  • Electrophysiology studies (EPS). These help your doctor find weak or damaged electrical pathways that make your heart beat too fast or slow. This helps your doctor find the cause of a heart rate problem and decide how to treat it.

  • Tilt table testing. Tilt table testing helps show if changes in your body position affect your heart rate and blood pressure.


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