A rapid change in ageing demographic is taking place worldwide such that healthcare professionals are increasingly treating old and very old patients. Syncope in the elderly is a challenging presentation that is under-recognised, particularly in the acute care setting. The reason for this is that presentation in the older person may be atypical: patients are less likely to have a prodrome, may have amnesia for loss of consciousness and events are frequently unwitnessed. The older patient thus may present with a fall rather than transient loss of consciousness. There is an increased susceptibility to syncope with advancing age attributed to age-related physiological impairments in heart rate and blood pressure, and alterations in cerebral blood flow. Multi-morbidity and polypharmacy in these complex patients increases susceptibility to syncope. Cardiac causes and more than one possible cause are also common. Syncope is a major cause of morbidity and mortality and is associated with enormous personal and wider health economic costs. In view of this, prompt assessment and early targeted intervention are recommended. The purpose of this article is to update the reader regarding the presentation and management of syncope in this rapidly changing demographic.
Helen O’ Brien - Department of Medical Gerontology, TCIN, St James’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
Rose Anne Kenny - Department of Medical Gerontology, TCIN, St James’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland