HealthDay News — According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, approximately 1 out of 6 patients hospitalized for a first episode of syncope had a pulmonary embolism.

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 from the emergency department for various reason. 

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Either the cause of syncope was not apparent; there was reason to suspect a cardiovascular-related cause; they had other serious medical conditions; or they had 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 had a potential alternative explanation for their syncope, such as a cardiovascular condition.

“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.


Prandoni P, et al. “Prevalence Of Pulmonary Embolism Among Patients Hospitalized For Syncope”. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016. 375(16): 1524-1531.

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