An Assessment of the Diagnostic Value in Syncope Workup: A Retrospective Study

Link to article at PubMed

HCA Healthc J Med. 2021 Dec 29;2(6):423-431. doi: 10.36518/2689-0216.1306. eCollection 2021.


BACKGROUND: Patients with syncope often undergo costly testing, despite current guidelines and data supporting the contrary.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the diagnostic value through positivity rate of electrocardiogram (EKG), computed tomography (CT) of the brain, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, transthoracic echocardiogram, nuclear and pharmacologic cardiac stress test, tilt table test and carotid ultrasound in patients diagnosed with syncope.

METHODS: This is a retrospective study of 10,036 adults presenting to the emergency department or hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of syncope at 8 acute care facilities in the southwest United States from January 1, 2019, to December 31, 2019. A chi-square analysis was performed for each testing modality to evaluate for a statistically significant difference. The cost of each test was estimated based on published national averages per Medicare.

RESULTS: Of our sample, 903 patients (9%) received a test that yielded any positive finding. The results in the order of highest percent positivity rate to lowest were EKG (5.7%), carotid ultrasound (4.84%), transthoracic echocardiogram (2.56%), tilt table test (1%), MRI brain (0.99%), CT brain (0.82%) and cardiac stress test (0.09%). The total sum spent on testing was estimated at $43,347,332. Only $489,170 of this total was spent on a positive test. If this data is expanded to the 6,146 hospitals across the United States, a yearly $33 billion are wasted on syncope workups.

CONCLUSION: Costly testing continues to be performed on syncope patients despite guidelines discouraging testing. The necessity of these tests should be carefully evaluated for each patient based on diagnostic value.

PMID:37427395 | PMC:PMC10324800 | DOI:10.36518/2689-0216.1306

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