Syncope is a type of fainting that affects millions of people worldwide. While it’s often seen as a minor condition since some cases may be harmless, syncope can also signal serious health issues—if not treated right away, it could be dangerous or even life-threatening.
If you or someone you know experiences syncope, understanding the symptoms and causes and having an appropriate nursing care plan is essential for proper treatment. Read on to learn more about all there is to know about syncope and how its managed in nursing care scenarios.
Table of Contents
What is Syncope?
Syncope is a sudden loss of consciousness caused by decreased blood flow to the brain. It usually occurs due to a drop in blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat, and it can be triggered by anything from standing up too quickly to emotional stress. People with syncope may experience lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, sweating, or blurred vision just before they faint.
Types of Syncope
There are several different types of syncope. They are:
- Neurocardiogenic: This is the most common type of syncope. It’s usually caused by an abnormal heartbeat or a drop in blood pressure when standing up too quickly.
- Vasovagal: This type of syncope is triggered by intense emotional stress and physical triggers like pain, fear, or dehydration.
- Orthostatic: This type of syncope is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up or changing position.
- Cardiac: This type of syncope occurs due to an irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest. It’s the most severe form and requires immediate medical attention.
What are the Causes of Syncope?
An underlying medical condition, such as heart problems or neurologic disorders, usually causes syncope. Other potential triggers include medications, dehydration, low blood sugar, stress, emotional upset, and even certain smells or odors. Stressful activities such as exercise can also be a factor in syncope in some people.
What are the Symptoms of Syncope?
Syncope can be accompanied by a variety of different symptoms, including
- blurred vision
People affected by syncope may also experience a feeling of weakness or faintness just before they lose consciousness.
How is Syncope Treated?
Treatment for syncope depends on the underlying cause. People with heart problems or neurologic disorders may need medications to help regulate their heartbeat or control their seizures.
In cases where low blood sugar or dehydration is causing syncope, eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of fluids can help. Stress management techniques may be recommended to reduce anxiety, emotional upset, and other triggers.
Treatments of Syncope
Treatment for syncope varies based on the underlying cause. Generally speaking, treatment may include lifestyle changes like
- drinking more water and avoiding dizziness-causing activities
- medications like beta blockers or diuretics
- pacemaker implantation to regulate heart rhythm
- other treatments, such as procedures to correct cardiac arrhythmias.
Nursing Care Plans For Syncope
Anxiety Care Plan
Syncope Nursing Diagnosis: Anxiety
- Emotional responses to the sudden fainting episode
- Fear of recurrence
- Unfamiliar situations
- Recurrence of syncope episodes
- The patient will verbalize an experience of the anxiety and describe coping strategies.
- The patient will demonstrate reduced signs and symptoms of anxiety, such as decreased heart rate and improved ability to engage in activities with greater ease.
- Assess for physical signs of stress or anxiety.
Look for changes in respiration, increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, headache, etc., that may be present due to anxiety.
- Ask questions about triggers or situations that cause distress.
Find out what triggered the syncope episode and other stressful events or environments that could trigger an episode of syncope.
- Assess for sleep disturbances, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating due to anxiety.
Teach relaxation techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
Deep breathing can help reduce symptoms of anxiety as well as control heart rate and blood pressure levels. Progressive muscle relaxation can also help relax tense muscles associated with stress or tension.
Encourage regular exercise to improve overall well-being and reduce stress hormones.
Exercise helps to release endorphins that are natural mood elevators, reducing anxious thoughts and feelings while improving attitude towards life events.
Facilitate positive self-talk by encouraging patients to identify and challenge negative beliefs or thoughts.
Positive self-talk and cognitive restructuring can help reduce the intensity of anxiety symptoms and help patients develop coping strategies for future episodes.
Encourage positive social support by introducing support groups and providing referrals to mental health professionals for further assessment.
A strong supportive network of family, friends, and healthcare providers can provide emotional guidance during distress, helping reduce anxious feelings and improve overall well-being.
Deficient Knowledge Care Plan
Nursing Diagnosis: Deficient Knowledge
- Lack of understanding about syncope, its causes, and treatments
- The patient will verbalize an understanding of what syncope is, common triggers, and preventive strategies.
- The patient will demonstrate improved condition management through preventative measures and lifestyle changes.
Deficient Knowledge Assessment
- Assess the patient’s understanding of syncope, its causes, and treatments.
- Identify any knowledge deficits that need to be addressed.
Deficient Knowledge Interventions
1. Take precautions with medications.
Advise the patient to be aware of the potential side effects of taking diuretics and antihypertensives, as these medications can cause dehydration or worsen orthostatic hypotension.
2. Avoid vasovagal responses.
Instruct the patient on preventing triggers that could lead to a vasovagal syncope episode, such as looking at blood, getting up quickly, standing for long periods, and intense fear or stress.
3. Documenting syncopal episodes.
If the patient experiences recurrent episodes of syncope, have them or their family members document information such as the location, time of day, duration, and feelings afterward to help determine potential triggers or underlying conditions.
4. Following up with providers.
Remind the patient to adhere to discharge instructions which may include a follow-up visit to a cardiologist if the syncope is suspected to be related to heart events.
Risk for Injury Care Plan
Nursing Diagnosis for Syncope Risk for injury
- Unconsciousness due to syncopal episodes
- The patient will be able to identify and avoid potential triggers that could lead to a syncope episode.
- The patient will demonstrate an improved ability to recognize early signs of a syncopal episode and take preventive measures such as lying down or sitting up.
Risk for Injury Assessment
- Assess the patient’s risk factors for falls or other syncope-related injuries.
- Identify any existing medical conditions, lifestyle choices, or medications that may increase the patient’s risk.
Risk for Injury Interventions
1. Educate the patient on potential triggers of syncope episodes.
Instruct the patient on common triggers such as postural hypotension, dehydration, prolonged standing, and stress so they know what to look for and take preventive measures.
2. Advise against taking hot showers or baths before bedtime.
Hot showers can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure that could lead to a syncopal episode while sleeping.
3. Suggest using an alarm system or fall alert device if necessary.
If the patient is at increased risk for falls due to syncopal episodes, consider using an alarm system or fall alert device for added safety and protection.
4. Encourage carrying water with them when going out in case of dehydration.
Dehydration is a common cause of syncope episodes and can be easily prevented by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. Carrying water with them when going out or exercising can help prevent dehydration and reduce the risk of syncopal episodes.
Syncope is a serious medical condition that can have life-threatening consequences if left untreated. Care plan syncope interventions should focus on education, relaxation techniques, physical activity, positive self-talk, and social support to reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being.
Additionally, precautions must be taken to avoid syncopal triggers such as dehydration and prolonged standing. Lastly, an alarm system or fall alert device may be necessary for those at high risk for falls due to syncope episodes.
Mrs. Marie Brown has been a registered nurse for over 25 years. She began her nursing career at a Level I Trauma Center in downtown Chicago, Illinois. There she worked in the Emergency Department and on the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. After several years, she moved to the Midwest and continued her nursing career in a critical care setting. For the last 10 years of her nursing career, Mrs. Brown worked as a flight nurse with an air ambulance service. During this time, she cared for patients throughout the United States.