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Many times medical terminology can be hard to decipher. However, if you break down the words you can easily understand the terminology used. In the case of cardiogenic syncope, you can begin to understand this diagnosis if you know that syncope refers to a fainting spell. Cardio refers to anything to do with the cardiovascular system or the heart. The term cardiogenic means that the condition originates in the cardiovascular system. So this condition is a case of fainting due to cardiovascular problems. This is one of the most serious forms of syncope and requires medical attention.
Cardiogenic syncope is a medical condition where there is not enough blood and oxygen getting to the brain. When the brain does not get enough blood and oxygen, you can faint and sometimes lose consciousness. You are at a higher risk for this condition if you have coronary artery disease, angina, a history of heart attack, damage to the structure of the heart or frequent fainting episodes. This condition can also occur if you transfer from one position to another too quickly, like from lying down to standing up too fast. It could cause your blood pressure to drop.
The most common cause of cardiogenic syncope is an irregular heart rhythm, also called an arrhythmia. One type of arrhythmia that can cause syncope is tachycardia. This means that the heart beat is too fast. It may also be caused by bradycardia which occurs when the heart beat is too slow, although this cause is less common. Syncope caused by an arrhythmia is suspected in cases where there is a history of heart disease that started before the fainting spells began.
There are often no warning signs of cardiogenic syncope and the fainting spell comes on suddenly. In some cases, you may have symptoms similar to a heart attack -- such as tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, palpitations or sensations of skipped or pounding heart beat. Your doctor may suspect your fainting spells are cardiac related if they tend to happen when you are participating in physical activity.
There are many different heart-related tests your health-care provider can run to determine the cause of your fainting spells. Some of the possible tests include echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, exercise stress tests, having you wear a heart monitor for a day or two, as well as others. It may take some time and a combination of tests before your doctor can determine the exact cause of your condition.
Since each case of cardiogenic syncope is very different, you and your doctor will need to work together to find the right treatment approach for your unique situation. Since this condition is usually the result of another medical condition, you must find the underlying problem(s) and then treat them first. Treatment can include medication, insertion of a pacemaker or catheter, as well as many other options. The options available may depend on your age, level of physical activity, previous medical history and the severity and frequency of the fainting spells.