Vasodepressor syncope due to subclinical myocardial ischemia

Deborah D. Ascheim, Steven M. Markowitz, Henry Lai, Erica D. Engelstein, Kenneth M. Stein, Bruce B. Lerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Vasodepressor Syncope. Introduction: Vasodepressor syncope is a common cause of syncope, but the initiating event that triggers the vasodepressor response remains incompletely understood. Although ischemia due to acute right coronary occlusion may precipitate hypotension and bradycardia through the Bezold-Jarisch reflex, an ischemic precipitant for the common vasodepressor faint has not been previously identified. In the present study, we present evidence for a causal relationship between myocardial ischemia and vasodepressor syncope. Methods and Results: Two patients referred for evaluation of syncope underwent upright tilt table testing with either ST segment monitoring, sestamibi scintigraphy and echocardiography during the tilt test, or coronary angiography. Both patients had positive tilt table tests during the control study. Patient 1 was documented to have reproducible ischemic ECG changes during atypical chest pressure induced by upright tilt, despite a normal coronary angiogram with ergonovine provocation. Subsequent tilt testing with simultaneous sestamibi perfusion imaging and echocardiography revealed reversible anterolateral hypoperfusion corresponding with anterolateral hypokinesis during upright tilt that preceded syncope. Ischemic ECG changes during incremental rapid atrial pacing further suggested ischemia on the basis of microvascular disease. Follow-up tilt testing on verapamil was negative. Patient 2 developed ischemic ECG changes during the recovery phase of an exercise stress test, which was followed by a vasodepressor response and frank syncope. Coronary angiography revealed a 90% distal right coronary artery stenosis that was successfully dilated, after which follow-up tilt table testing off all other medication was negative. Conclusions: These two cases illustrate a previously unrecognized causality between myocardial ischemia and clinical vasodepressor syncope, and demonstrate that subtle manifestations of myocardial ischemia, associated with either atypical angina or silent ischemia, can provoke syncope.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-221
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of cardiovascular electrophysiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997


  • arrhythmia
  • ischemia
  • syncope


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