Clinical Autonomic Research

, Volume 14, Supplement 1, pp i18–i24 | Cite as

Pathophysiology of syncope



Syncope or near-syncope is a not uncommon effect of gravitational or other stresses and it occurs when cerebral blood flow falls to below about half the normal value. It is not necessarily abnormal, and individuals who are usually asymptomatic show the same reaction if a stress is sufficiently great to result in hypotension. Blood pressure is regulated mainly by baroreceptor reflexes by their control of vascular resistance and heart rate. The ability to vasoconstrict powerfully is important in resisting syncope; heart rate responses are of much less physiological significance. The intriguing unanswered question is what suddenly changes vasoconstriction and tachycardia to vasodilatation and bradycardia. It is now known not to be due to stimulation of cardiac receptors and some cerebral signal is more probable. People are more likely to faint when upright, motionless, warm, following meals, dehydrated or emotionally stressed, and these factors may be involved in some reflex syncopes including micturition and defaecation syncopes. Plasma volume is of considerable importance and increasing this by interventions such as salt loading, exercise training, and even sleeping with the bed head raised can often be of clinical benefit.

Key words

cerebral blood flow vasoconstriction bradycardia vasovagal Valsalva blood volume 


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Cardiovascular ResearchUniversity of LeedsLeeds, LS2 9JTUK

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