Atypical Prodromal Symptoms Help to Distinguish Patients With Psychogenic Nonsyncopal Collapse Among Youth Referred for Fainting

Geoffrey Heyer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Background: Distinguishing patients with psychogenic nonsyncopal collapse (PNSC), a conversion disorder that resembles syncope, can pose a difficult clinical challenge. Using the open-ended question “what does it feel like to faint?,” the present study aimed to characterize how patients with PNSC perceive and communicate the prodromal symptoms associated with their attacks by comparing narratives between patients with PNSC and those with syncope. Methods: During a 42-month database-type study of tilt-table diagnoses, all patients with a history of fainting were asked the open-ended question. Symptom descriptions were compared, qualitatively and quantitatively, between patients with PNSC and those with tilt-induced syncope (n = 121 in both cohorts). Results: Twenty-nine patients (24%) diagnosed with PNSC and eight (6.6%) diagnosed with syncope either denied having any prodromal symptoms or could not recall any symptoms (P < 0.001). Among patients who reported prodromal symptoms, patient narratives led to the formation of 26 symptom categories. Symptom frequencies differed between cohorts in 19 of the symptom categories (each P value <0.05). Qualitative differences in the descriptions of symptoms were often present, even when symptom frequencies did not differ. More patients with PNSC described atypical symptoms than patients with syncope, 54 of 92 (58.7%) versus eight of 113 (7.1%), P < 0.001. Conclusions: Symptom narratives can help to distinguish patients with PNSC from those with syncope. The use of a single, open-ended question as a screening tool for conversion disorder has immediate clinical relevance because it can be instituted easily in a busy clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-72
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric neurology
Volume95
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

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Prodromal Symptoms
Syncope
Conversion Disorder

Keywords

  • Conversion disorder
  • Functional
  • PNES
  • PNSC
  • Pseudosyncope
  • Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures
  • Syncope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this

Atypical Prodromal Symptoms Help to Distinguish Patients With Psychogenic Nonsyncopal Collapse Among Youth Referred for Fainting. / Heyer, Geoffrey.

In: Pediatric neurology, Vol. 95, 01.06.2019, p. 67-72.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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abstract = "Background: Distinguishing patients with psychogenic nonsyncopal collapse (PNSC), a conversion disorder that resembles syncope, can pose a difficult clinical challenge. Using the open-ended question “what does it feel like to faint?,” the present study aimed to characterize how patients with PNSC perceive and communicate the prodromal symptoms associated with their attacks by comparing narratives between patients with PNSC and those with syncope. Methods: During a 42-month database-type study of tilt-table diagnoses, all patients with a history of fainting were asked the open-ended question. Symptom descriptions were compared, qualitatively and quantitatively, between patients with PNSC and those with tilt-induced syncope (n = 121 in both cohorts). Results: Twenty-nine patients (24{\%}) diagnosed with PNSC and eight (6.6{\%}) diagnosed with syncope either denied having any prodromal symptoms or could not recall any symptoms (P < 0.001). Among patients who reported prodromal symptoms, patient narratives led to the formation of 26 symptom categories. Symptom frequencies differed between cohorts in 19 of the symptom categories (each P value <0.05). Qualitative differences in the descriptions of symptoms were often present, even when symptom frequencies did not differ. More patients with PNSC described atypical symptoms than patients with syncope, 54 of 92 (58.7{\%}) versus eight of 113 (7.1{\%}), P < 0.001. Conclusions: Symptom narratives can help to distinguish patients with PNSC from those with syncope. The use of a single, open-ended question as a screening tool for conversion disorder has immediate clinical relevance because it can be instituted easily in a busy clinical setting.",
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