Diagnosis of blackouts is often “inaccurate, inefficient and delayed”, meaning doctors could be missing serious underlying conditions such as heart disease or epilepsy, according to a health watchdog.
Introducing Nursing Times Learning
Subscribers get five FREE learning units and non-subscribers can access each learning unit for £10 + VAT.
Click on the topics below to get started:
GPs should treat all instances in which a patient suffers a temporary loss of consciousness seriously unless there is clear evidence it has no underlying cause, and should consult specialists if they are unsure, NICE said.
Blackouts, which most often involve a fainting episode, will affect around one in two Britons in their lifetime, and causes range from standing for long periods, being stressed or anxious, not eating properly or a sudden unpleasant sight or experience.
GPs should be looking for potential neurological conditions and symptoms, such as jerky limbs during the blackout or a person biting their tongue or experiencing confusion or disorientation afterwards, the watchdog said.
Fergus Macbeth, director of the centre for clinical practice at NICE, said: “Although transient loss of consciousness is a very common symptom that the NHS deals with on a daily basis, its diagnosis can often be inaccurate, inefficient and delayed.
“For example, some people with epilepsy may also have a heart problem which has caused them to black out, which could initially be overlooked as the healthcare professional may believe that he or she already has the correct diagnosis.”