Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Fainting painting
  1. Philip E.M. Smith
  1. Consultant Neurologist, Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, CF144XW, UK; E-mail: SmithPE{at}



Fainting (syncope) is temporary loss of consciousness and posture due to impaired cerebral perfusion. Vasovagal syncope, the commonest form, typically is situational (bathroom at night, or hot, crowded environments) with specific triggers, e.g. prolonged standing, emotional trauma, pain, coughing, swallowing or micturition. Vasovagal syncope is generally benign, but fainting without provocation or warning, or for the first time in older individuals, suggests the more serious cardiac syncope – this must be investigated and managed urgently.

There are three phases to syncope: pro-drome, unconsciousness and recovery. The vasovagal syncope prodrome — light-headedness, nausea, sweating, blacking of vision — develops over 1–5 min. Unconsciousness lasts usually less than a minute, with pallor, sweating, cold skin, eyes open and elevated, and sometimes limb stiffness and convulsive jerks. Incontinence and injury are uncommon, and lateral tongue biting very rare. Recovery is prompt and any postictal confusion resolves in seconds.


Although syncope is

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Other content recommended for you