Diagnostic utility of carotid artery duplex ultrasonography in the evaluation of syncope: A good test ordered for the wrong reason

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Aims Syncope refers to a transient loss of consciousness and postural tone secondary to cerebral hypoperfusion. Guidelines recommend against neurovascular testing in cases of syncope without neurologic symptoms; however, many pursue carotid artery duplex ultrasonography (CUS) due to the prognostic implications of identified cerebrovascular disease. Our objective was to determine the diagnostic utility of CUS in the evaluation of syncope and the identification of new or severe atherosclerosis with the potential to change patient management. Methods and results We reviewed records of 569 patients with CUS ordered for the primary indication of syncope through an accredited vascular laboratory at an academic, urban medical centre. Findings on CUS, patient demographic, clinical and laboratory information, and medications within 6 months of the CUS exam were reviewed. Bivariate relationships between key medical history characteristics and atherosclerosis status (known vs. new disease) were examined. Among 495 patients with complete information, cerebrovascular findings could potentially explain syncope in 2% (10 patients). Optimization of cardiovascular risk factors would benefit patients with known (56.6%) and new atherosclerosis (33.5%) with suboptimal lipid control, (LDL > 70 in 42.2 and 34.9% respectively; LDL > 100 in 15.7 and 20.4%), and those not on high-intensity statin therapy (80 and 87.5%) or antiplatelet medications (13.2 and 50.6%). Conclusion CUS is a low-yield diagnostic test in the evaluation of syncope, but it is useful in the diagnosis of atherosclerosis and identification of subjects who would benefit from optimal medical therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-625
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Heart Journal Cardiovascular Imaging
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Carotid artery duplex ultrasonography
  • Syncope


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