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Some causes of unexplained fainting are harmless and can be treated with simple lifestyle changes. Others are more serious. An implantable heart (cardiac) monitor records your heart’s activity over long periods of time. This may help your doctor determine if an abnormal heart rhythm is the cause of your fainting.
Fainting, also called syncope, is a sudden loss of consciousness. It occurs when blood pressure drops and not enough oxygen reaches the brain. When fainting is unexplained and infrequent, an insertable cardiac monitor may be prescribed. The small, implantable monitor continuously records your heart's activity. When you faint, your doctor can download information from the monitor to determine if the cause is heart-related.
A stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain is suddenly blocked or bursts, resulting in damage to the brain tissue.
The majority of all strokes are ischemic, which means they occur as a result of an obstruction, such as a blood clot, within the blood vessel. This blockage prevents or greatly reduces the delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients to the brain.
In some cases, despite testing during the hospital stay, the cause of a stroke cannot be determined. This is what is known as a “cryptogenic” stroke or a embolic stroke of unknown source (ESUS). It’s estimated that 25-30% of ischemic strokes are cryptogenic or unexplained.1
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a major risk factor for stroke. It’s a common condition in which the upper chambers of the heart beat very fast and irregularly. As a result, blood is not pumped effectively to the rest of the body and may pool and clot. If a clot dislodges, it can travel to the brain and result in a stroke. People with AFib are five times more likely to have a stroke.2
Having a stroke means you are at greater risk for having another (recurrent) stroke. At least 1 in 4 Americans who have a stroke will have another stroke within their lifetime.3 Determining the cause of your stroke will help your physician take steps to minimize the risk of having a recurrent stroke.
Heart palpitations are relatively common and usually a harmless condition in which the heart feels as if it is pounding, racing or fluttering.
Heart palpitations account for 16% of symptoms that cause patients to go to their primary care doctor, second only to chest pain as the reason patients seek a cardiology evaluation.4-6
While concerning, palpitations usually are harmless. However, in some cases they may indicate a more serious heart condition, like a heart rhythm disorder, that requires treatment.
Atrial fibrillation is a common condition in which the upper chambers of the heart beat very fast and irregularly, so the heart can’t pump blood effectively to the rest of the body. Left untreated, it can lead to stroke.
Heart monitoring can help determine if an arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat is at the root of the problem.
Liao J, Khalid Z, Scallan C, Morillo C, O’Donnell M. Noninvasive cardiac monitoring for detecting paroxysmal atrial fibrillation or flutter after acute ischemic stroke: a systematic review. Stroke 2007;38:2935–2940.
2014; 370(26):2478-2486.American Heart Association. Wolf PA, Abbott RD, Kannel WB. Atrial fibrillation as an independent risk factor for stroke: The Framingham Study. Stroke. August 1991;22(8):983-988. Accessed October 2013.
National Stroke Association. http://www.stroke.org/we-can-help/survivors/stroke-recovery/first-steps-recovery/preventing-another-stroke. Accessed 9/17/15.
Mayou R. Chest pain, palpitations and panic. J Psychosom Res 1998;44:53-70.
Kroenke K, Arringon ME, Mangelsdroff AD. The prevalence of symptoms in medical outpatients and the adequacy of therapy. Arch Intern Med 1990;150:1685-9.
Knudson MP. The natural history of palpitations in a family practice. J Fam Pract 1987;24:357-60.